Wanted, A Gentleman by KJ Charles and British Ginger Molasses Cake

Hi there book people! It’s been a couple of weeks since I got on here. I’ve been busy fretting about the impending demise of civilization at large, starting a a second Master’s degree, and gearing up to travel to Washington DC, and march with the other millions of women around the world who wanted to make a point to the new president of the United States.

It’s a scary time right now for so many reasons, which makes me doubly grateful for romance novels, and particularly glad for authors like KJ Charles who picks up her pen with purpose and clear eyes. She does not shy away from the things that are shameful in our history, and I respect her for that. The construct of race has always been something that I’ve strived to understand. As a woman of color, a feminist, someone born in a small island that was colonized on one side by the Spanish, and on the other by the French, the weaponization of skin color by  those who lack it to oppress those of us who do, has always been a source of repulsed wonder for me.

So, when I see that a romance writer wants to dip her toe into that mess and come up with a love story, I can’t helped but feel charmed and amazed. KJ Charles once again navigated the complicated waters of interracial romance, and has given us a delightful story in Wanted, A Gentleman. But before I talk more about the book, let’s talk about food! For this one I baked, if you read the book you’ll find the description of the the gooey Yorkshire Parkin to tempting not to try it! Parkin is a traiditional English pudding that has molasses, lots of ginger and oats. It is quite moist and lovely, perfect with a cup of tea on a cold winter day.

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Now the story…Theodore Swann is an enterprising man of his times. He maintains and owns a lonely hearts paper, “The Matrimonial Advertiser”, and he writes sweeping romances under the pen name Dorothea Swann. He is also in a bit of a bind. The issue arises when Mr. Martin St. Vincent, free man and entrepreneur, shows up at Theodore’s place of business demanding answers regarding a certain series of ads in “The Matrimonial Advertiser”. The ads may involve a very wealthy, very underage young woman Mr. St Vincent deeply cares for, and he will do what it takes to save the lady from disgracing herself.

Things precipitate and before we know it, we have embarked with Mr. Swann and Mr. St. Vincent in a furious chase across England to save the young lady from impending doom. It is a bumpy ride, literally and figuratively, and like every other story at the hands of the marvelous KJ, the wit crackles as intensely as the tension between our heroes.

This story like others by this author doesn’t shy away from portraying the hero/es as deeply flawed, and explores the injustices of class, gender and race of the times. Martin St. Vincent was enslaved by the family of the girl he is trying to rescue. He cares for her, and is still conflicted in his relationship to his past masters. They freed him yes, they even helped him once he was free, however can that atone for the atrocity of owning a man like property? These are things that both Martin and Theodore explore and struggle with throughout the story.

I appreciate KJ’s boldness in not trying to sugarcoat the monstrosity that was slavery and or and not trying to suggest that freeing someone you felt you had the right to own just because his skin color was black is not in any way redeeming. We also get some incredibly witty and thoughtful musings on the burden of the woman, and the disadvantages that come with being born female.

As romances go, I think the love story was believable and effective. I do think that KJ holds back a bit with her characters of color, I felt it as well in her previous interracial story Rag & Bone. I don’t imply it in a negative way at all, I think it comes from awareness and respect towards the character. As a person of color, I appreciate her restraint and highly prefer it to the carelessness with which so many authors write characters of color in their stories. This of course does not mean this was not a lovely and entertaining story, it was. It IS, and like with every other story by KJ, we not only get the romance and the erotica, we get amazing humanity.

I completely recommend this book, and can’t wait for her upcoming trilogy Sins of the Cities coming out in February.

Yorkshire Parkin Pudding

adapted from britishfood.abot.com

  • 8 oz/ soft butter
  • ½ cup  soft, dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1cup golden corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup self raising flour (or 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinammon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of ground clove
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoon milk

Directions:

Heat the oven to 275F

  • Grease a 8″ x 8″square cake tin.
  • In a large heavy-based saucepan melt together the butter, sugar, molasses, golden syrup over a gentle heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil, you simply need to melt these together.fullsizerender-1
  • In a large, spacious, baking bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Gradually add the melted butter mixture stirring to coat all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Gradually, beat in the eggs a few tablespoons at a time. Finally add the milk and again stir well.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and cook for 1½ hours until firm and set and a dark golden brown.
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  • Remove the Parkin from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool store the Parkin in an airtight tin for a minimum of 3 days if you can resist eating it, you can even leave it up to a week before eating and the flavours really develop and the mixture softens even further and become moist and sticky. The Parkin will keep up to two weeks in an airtight container. I suggest serving it with some vanilla ice cream. SO GOOD!

Hope you enjoy the book and the cake, stay warm, and stay fired up!

Cheers and Happy Reading.

Laura

My Favorite Books of 2016 and Holiday Cookies!

I hope everyone has been having a lovely holiday season this past week. I have been busy hosting lovely friends and family who have made the trip to New York for a visit with us, as well as working and other “leading a life” related activities. I have also caught a bit of a cold, but I WAS able to do some baking before the holiday crud set in. As promised I have a list of of my favorite books of 2016, as well as a couple of recipes of holiday cookies I love to make this time of year.

The cookies I chose are Chocolate Crinkles and a Shortbread recipe. The crinkles are delish, like eating the edge of the brownie pan, and the shortbread recipe is incredibly delicious and versatile. You can make take the basic dough and add all kinds of fun ingredients. I made two different kinds for this post, lemon poppy seed and dried cherry with dark chocolate chips. SO GOOD!!

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Now, back to the books, for convenience sake, I’ve listed the books in the order they came out this year, from the earliest to the latest, some had made it on the blog already. So here they are, my favorite romance reads of 2016:

26157385The Mermaid Murders by Josh Lanyon: What can I say that has not already been said about a Lanyon Mystery? The dialogue is superb, the mystery will keep you guessing, and the heroes will make you swoon. This mystery in particular had it’s fair share of heart stopping moments, and there were scenes so vivid and fast paced throughout I was a bit breathless the whole time. Loved it.

 

28121630-1Scoring Chances Series by Avon Gale:  This series caught my eye early this year and it quickly became a favorite. I love the easy stories and strong writing. I have read every book in the series, and can say that each one has been better then the last. The game of hockey is star for sure in these novels, and I think the books are the better for it. The author clearly has a passion for the games and her enthusiasm infuses the stories by giving us heroes with a whole lot of heart.

22714914-1Catch a Tiger by the Tail  and Smoke and Mirrors by Charlie Cochet: The only way one would be a gay romance reader and not heard of the THIRDS series at this point, would be if one were doing so under a large rock, even then, I’d be surprised! The THIRDS universe has an enormous following, and every bit of hype is unequivocally very well deserved. The world Charlie Cochet has created is outstanding. Getting lost with these characters, and their stories is a delight, the books just get better and better. Smoke and Mirrors the 7th book,  and latest in the series, was probably the most emotional so far for me. One of the best books of the year, full stop.

25893424A Gentleman’s Position By KJ Charles: If I could, I’d  write a love poem to this book, I love it so. I’ve read it like a half a dozen times, and it is just as good each time. I absolutely love the way KJ Charles set this book and the nuance with which she put forth some incredibly deep thoughts on privilege, obligation and a man’s place in the world. On what it really means to ‘have it all’. Throughout this series, she explores socio-economic disparities and injustices with such a clear eye and razor sharp tongue, I almost feel sorry for those poor saps out there who think they are too clever to read romance…Almost.

32106624-1Risk Everything on It  and Take a Chance on It by K.A. Mitchell: The last book in this trilogy was a heart breaker, just like it promised to be. It lived up to the angst I expected, and it also delivered some of the most tender storytelling I’ve read in this genre. Only one with some serious skill could walk us through a love story forged in the midst of cancer treatment, and give us everything we need to get an utterly satisfying romance. KA Mitchell has those skills, and then some.

12000020-1Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: This book was released awhile ago, but I only got around to it this year. It is a beautiful coming of age story, I loved it so much. I think pretty much everyone should read this book.

 

 

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Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk: This new series by Jordan L Hawk, who is a total master at the paranormal, is pretty clever. A paranormal police force in 1800s New York City, animal shifters of every kind. This first book was entertaining and the love story was solid. Looking forward to more from this universe.

 

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First and First (Five Boroughs Series #3) by Santino Hassell: I got on the Santino Hassell train a bit late, and did not pick up this series until this year. I am glad I did, this series is set and written with the kind of grit only a born and bred New Yorker can muster up. The vernacular is on point, the portrayal of Afro-Caribbean New Yorkers is done superbly, the love stories are raw and hard fought. For an adopted New Yorker like me, this series can’t get any better. I look forward to Staten Island and the Bronx.

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Overexposed (In Focus #4) by Megan Erickson: This is the last book in the ‘In Focus’ series. Each book is set around a trip, road trip, cruise and in this case walking the Appalachian Trail. One of our heroes is grieving, the other is struggling to readjust to civilian life.The second theme in particular I think this author does very well. Trauma is not easy to write into a character, and I thought she did both her heroes and their pain justice.  I loved this book, thought it was the best of the series and strongly recommend it.

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Out of Nowhere and Where We Left Off by Roan Parrish: This another author/series with which I’ve descended deeply into the waters of fervency. Will and Leo’s story in particular is as much a coming of age story as it is a romance. The author does this with such a gentle hand, that we feel like we are spreading our wings alongside Leo. There is heartbreak in this story, but loves wins out gloriously.

 

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Pansies by Alexis Hall: This book is as sweet as the cover and the title suggest. Alexis Hall is a known and respected name in this genre, and for good reason. This book was wonderful.

 

 

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Bitter Legacy by Dal Mclean: I wrote a review on this book a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t go too much in things here, other than to say, if you have not read it, please do.

 

 

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Summer Lessons by Amy Lane: This might be one of my favorite Amy Lane series. I absolutely loved the previous story Winter Ball, and this one was just as sweet. Pure Amy Lane goodness.

 

 

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So This is Christmas by Josh Lanyon:  To begin and  end the year with Josh Lanyon, if only every one could be this magical! For those of us who have been reading this genre for awhile, this novella out today, is a bona fide Christmas Miracle. What can I even say? I stayed up ALL NIGHT reading it, and it was well worth the wait and the sleep depravation. Jake and Adrien again, happy and in love, it was like visiting with beloved old friends, you know the ones right? You can just pick up with them, like you were  together yesterday. *happiest of sighs*

Now after all these amazing books, let’s move one to the cookies you can bake to enjoy them with!

Lemon Poppy Seed and Cherry Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 sticks  unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup  confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon  vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

Before you start with the though prepare your flavors for the two varieties. For the lemon poppy seed,  zest two lemons and 1/4 cup of poppy seeds. For the cherry dark chocolate, chop up finely half a cup of dry cherries (I used dried bing cherries from Trader Joe’s) and a half a cup of dark mini chocolate chips.

Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla or almond, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula.

Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)

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3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.

5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

Chocolate Crinkles

Adapted from Simply Recipes 

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Beat together cocoa powder, white sugar, vegetable oil in the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beat by hand with a wooden spoon) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty, black dough of sorts.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder if using.

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Mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined. Do not overbeat.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for four hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioner’s sugar in a wide bowl.

Using a rounded teaspoon get clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) sized balls using your hands.

Roll the balls in the confectioner’s sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get 12-16 on each sheet).

Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

I hope that you’ve gotten a couple of books to look for from this list and that you give the cookies a try, they are YUMMY!

This is my last post for the year, hopefully 2017 will ring in with great books to read. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laurax

 

My Comfort Reads from 2016 and the Ultimate Winter Couscous…C-O-Z-Y

Hello folks! Now that I decided to bring back the blog, I figure go big or go home right?! Over the weekend we had terrible weather here in the NYC ‘burbs, lots of snow, then rain, then slush…Indoors weather, just begging for a cozy fire, some yummy hearty food and a comfort read. Then it occurred to me, why not post my comfort reads of the year?! So I came up with a list of books  I’ve read over and over again in 2016, the stories never seem to get old, they just make me feel happy. Given the state of things this year, things that bring us joy are not to be overlooked.

To go with this list I picked a recipe that I LOVE to make in the cold weather, it makes me feel well fed, warm and happy. It’s the Ultimate Winter Couscous which appears in one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks, Plenty by Yotam Ottlolenghi. This couscous is aromatic, earthy, delicious and very filling, also the leftovers are dynamite.  The wine I paired it with is the Sauvignon Blanc by Archer Roose. It IS a boxed wine, but honestly it’s delicious, I buy it all the time. It’s pretty much always in my kitchen.  They also have a Cabernet that would go great with this dish as well, and the best part is the price, under $25 for a box with four bottles. You can’t beat that on a snow day!

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Ok, so let’s talk books, the order of the books relates to how re-readable and happiness inducing, I’ve found them (it’s important to note, I’ve read each of these multiple times, so they are all awesome!).

25893424A Gentleman’s Position (Society of Gentlemen Series #3) by KJ Charles. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this series. This book specifically, is like a warm blanket for me. There is such a beautiful intersection of historical romance with a deeply thoughtful look at social injustice, and the chains, visible and invisible, men make for themselves in every one of these books. I’ve said it once, twice, many, many times, in historical romance, for me, KJ Charles is second to none. If you have not read this series, please do, you will not regret it. Also if you have read them and loved them, a new Christmas Coda is out and it is AMAZING, we get an update from all our gentlemen, and a particularly scorching visit with Silas and Dominic from book two. You can get it by subscribing to the author’s newsletter!

28168696Risk Everything on It by K.A. Mitchell What is a list of favorites worth if KA Mitchell isn’t in it? K.A.’s writing is always safe bet for me, and this book specifically just hit all the right notes. I’ve read this one a few times this year, and like everything she writes,the erotica is searing. Moreover, with this one, as the title suggests, she takes risks. She has two men with complicated lives at a time in life when making changes can come at too high a cost, is it worth the risk? Of course it is! This is one of my favorites KA’s books, and that in itself is  telling.

29361143Power Play (Scoring Chances Series #3) by Avon Gale: This series is built around a set of American minor league hockey teams and it is DELICIOUS. This book particularly, I have read  like half a dozen times since it came out, as a matter of fact I read over this past weekend. I just love it. Love the romance, love the characters, the series, and the way the author blends in the game as well.

 

 

28549365-1Out of Nowhere (Middle of Somewhere Series #2) by Roan Parrish I don’t know what it is about Roan Parrish’s writing that works so well for me. Not that there aren’t obvious reasons, like the fact she writes with amazing style and so genuinely. Her love stories are earnest, in ways that really affect me. I relate to her characters so deeply, they feel like kindred spirits. Out of Nowhere specially has such a perfect balance of angst and hope, I find myself utterly disarmed by Rafe and Colin. I can’t express my respect for this author enough… She goes fully in with issues like mass incarceration and racial injustice, in a romance novel!  Read this one, but first read #1 and then after that #3.

27797842Us (Him #2) by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy: I don’t know what it is about me and hockey this year, but whatever it is, IT IS WORKING. Another series, and both books are just adorable. This second one brought the angst up a few notches, and it made it that much better for me! Also the best friend/neighbor/teammate character had me cackling away for the whole of the  book. These books are so fun and sweet.

 

 

30415154Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2) by Megan Ericksson and Santino Hassell: I would like to say the nuclear level of hotness that is this book is not a major reason why I’ve read it like five times, but I’d be LYING. In two words this book is, fun and hot…It is utterly readable, Luke and Dominic are a happy place for me. But I don’t want to sell it short, they delve into issues like the difficulties of veterans trying to re-enter civilian society after their service, among other things. This is not just fluffy sexy times.

Just because I can, I have two Bonus Picks, just because I am already here and listing stuff, so I thought I’d add two of my PERENNIAL, ALL TIME, READ THEM SO MUCH I KNOW SOME PARTS BY HEART comfort reads.

  1. The Adrien English Series by Josh Lanyon audiobooks…This series however you consume it, is life changing. The audios however, are to another level, they are utter perfection. I even got my husband to listen to them on a road trip a few years ago! This is perfect to listen during the holidays, I’ve done it for like the past three years. So good.
  2. The Enlightenment Series by Joanna Chambers. Other than KJ Charles, Joanna  is by far my favorite historical author in the genre. This series is set PERFECTLY in early 19th century Scotland. Again an author that does not shy away from accurately portraying injustices, and getting at some pretty hard issues, like domestic violence and the shameful part of Scottish history knows as the “highland clearances”. Also the love story is EPIC.

Now that we have some books to read, let’s talk food!

Ultimate Winter Couscous

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 8 shallots, peeled
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise/or anise seeds (½ teaspoon)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 2 cups pumpkin and butternut squash cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 14oz can chickpeas
  • 1 cup chickpeas liquid and/or water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • large pinch of saffron
  • 1 ¼ cup boiling vegetable stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, broken into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • ¼ cup preserved lemon skin, finely chopped/or zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp cilantro leaves
  • salt

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425F. Put carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large baking dish (9×13) Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise or anise seeds, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of the oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and all the other spices and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

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Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite. Now add the dried apricots and the chickpeas with their cooking liquid and/or water. Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until hot.

About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the saffron and ½ teaspoon salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave for about 10 minutes. Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again and leave somewhere warm.

To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl. Stir the harissa and preserved lemon or zest into the vegetables; taste and add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the center of the couscous. Finish with plenty of cilantro leaves.

I hope that you try some of these books if you have not read them already and give the recipe a go. They will hep keep you warm in the coming cold winter nights.

So, now that you know MY favorites…Share YOUR favorite comfort reads and winter recipes with me!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laurax

 

 

 

Thanks a Lot, John LeClair by Johanna Parkhurst and a Hearty Mac & Cheese for those growing boys!

johnleclairI had to alter my schedule for the week, and do a review and recipe  for Thanks a Lot, John Leclair by Johanna Parkhurst. This book is the sequel to another one of my favorite young adult reads of recent years, Here’s to You, Zeb Pike where we met Emmitt Lapoint for the first time. Emmitt the star hockey player of his small town Vermont high school has a big secret, he’s in love with a boy. So in love in fact, that it’s changing everything. He needs to make sense of it all, and so he tries to figure it our the same way he as since he was 7 years old, by writing letters to his hero,  NHL player, John Leclair. He’s never sent any of the letters mind you, but they do seem to help him when he needs to figure things out.

For this book, I had to make a Mac and Cheese, it was a go to dinner for Emmitt and his brother Casey in the book, hot dogs with Mac and Cheese was a THING in this book. I kept hoping  to see a veggie make it to the menu when Emmitt was in charge of the cooking, so I took matters into my own hands, and came up with a recipe even young Emmitt could master. A Hearty Mac and Cheese with broccoli and mushrooms, rich, with a lovely crunchy topping, gooey and super filling. No wine pairing for this one though, keeping it alcohol free for the youths!

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Now the story.

Johanna Parkhurst does this thing, she writes her young characters with such evident respect and high regard, one can’t help but to read it them in the same spirit.  Emmitt is a boy who has placed a lot on his own shoulders, and for the most part he carries it well. He’s made being “good” his life’s purpose. The thing is since Dusty’s come along though, being the Golden Boy is getting harder every day. However things are getting strained with Dusty, he is tired of feeling like Emmitt’s dirty little secret. For Emmitt, the pressure to live up to all the expectations people have put on him, that he has put on himself, are becoming stifling.

This story in many ways is a straightforward coming of age story, adversity comes to test the mettle, and our hero rises to the challenge. The real beauty in this story for me, was in getting to see how Emmitt learned that true strength and success are not things you can see. They are the stuff that makes your life purposeful, meaningful and full of happiness, and those things, they are not for the outside world, they are for you, and  those whose lives your presence fills with purpose, meaning and happiness.

However don’t let this all this depth distract you, this book is funny, witty and seriously adorable, in short, the full YA package. Every character adds to this story, and it’s lovely to see that Emmitt who has always has everyone’s back, gets to have people stand up for him, and show him just how much he matters. At a time, I at least,desperately need it, this book left me feeling good about the future.

Hearty Mac and Cheese

  • 1 cup of chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 cup of chopped white button mushrooms
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups of grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of grated Gouda cheese (or Gruyere)
  • 5 cups of milk
  • ½ all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup of breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb of rotini pasta
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 375F. Separately, cook pasta according to  instructions and set aside.

In a large pot (I used a 4qt cast iron braiser, which I put in the oven to bake the Mac & Cheese) melt 2 tablespoons of butter at medium heat. Once it’s bubbling add the mushrooms, cook them for about 3 minutes stirring constantly, add the broccoli and cook that for about 2 minutes. Once the veggies are sauteed, take them off the pot and set aside in a bowl.fullsizerender

Start to warm your milk to use for the sauce. Have your flour at hand, as well as a whisk. In the same pot put the rest of your butter, once it starts bubbling, pour in the flour and whisk vigorously until butter and flour are incorporated.fullsizerender

Once that is done pour the milk in, continue to whisk and add the cheddar and Gouda or Gruyere cheese to the sauce. Mix until the cheese is well melted, add the pasta, veggies, salt and pepper. Let that cook down for 3  minutes until sauce it thicker, it should be a bit thin though, since liquid will be absorbed in the oven.

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For the topping, mix the nutmeg, parmesan, breadcrumbs and paprika. If you are using a cast iron pot, you can sprinkle the crumbs right on top of the mac and cheese and put in the oven for 30 minutes. If not, pour pasta mixture into a deep 9X13 baking dish and top with your crumbs, and bake for same length of time. Let it sit for about five minutes before serving. It is a lovely mid-week meal with a simple side salad. Also the leftovers are AMAZING (I had them for lunch today)!

Thanks for visiting, I hope you enjoy the book and the recipe. I have a couple more things in the works this week, including my picks for Comfort Reads of 2016 so check back in soon!

Cheers and happy reading!

Laurax

On the return…Dal Maclean’s “Bitter Legacy” Veggie Spag Bol and Chianti!

30777300 It’s been a long long time my friends…I don’t even know how many of you are still out there. I took a long sabbatical from blogging, due to a life that just got too busy, but I always had the blog in the back of my mind, hoping I could come back to it.

So! Here I am, it’s been A YEAR here in the US of A, things are looking grim on so many levels, so I thought to myself what else can I do to make myself a bit cheerier? BLOG! About wine, food and my favorite books.

For this first posting after my long  absence, I decided to go with one of my favorite books of this year, and definitely one of the best mysteries I’ve read in a very long time. Dal Mclean’s Bitter Legacy. This book is not your typical romance, but to me it was one of the most moving love stories I’ve read in a while. I love a hard won happy ending, and Ben and James forged theirs in fire.

If you are new to this blog, or forgot how I go about things, here’s the gist of it, with the review I will have a recipe (vegetarian or vegetarian adaptation) which relates to something in the book, or just a meal or kind of food I connect to the story, I also pair it with a bottle of wine, which I go to the trouble of drinking to ensure you get an accurate recommendation…I usually go for something  budget friendly ($12 or less) and tasty that goes perfectly with the book and the food.

For Bitter Legacy, I went with a Vegetarian Bolognese, if you read the book (and I really hope you do!) it will become very clear why, both the book and this recipe are winners. The wine is of course a Chianti, nothing goes better with a bold pasta dish, than this Italian staple.

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But before we go to the food let’s talk about the book.

James Henderson is a Detective Sergeant for London’s Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation Team, he’s on the fast track  to become an inspector, when he gets put on a case that could make or break careers. A criminal attorney with roots in the highest echelons of London society is brutally murdered, and looking for her killer James is swept into a web of ugliness that threatens to touch every part of his life.

Then there is the housing issue…James who hails from the most privileged of British families, left it all behind to be a cop. It cost him everything, and he has been adrift for a few years, has not even had a proper place to live.

It just so happens the perfect flat and flatmate just drop right out of the sky, sure they are a bit too close for comfort to the investigation, but hey! It’s London and affordable, decent places to live are rarer than rubies, so he goes for it, and well, that changes everything.

This is by far the best mystery/thriller I’ve read in years. I literally was enthralled, by how the author spun this story, and how well she struck a balance between the mystery and the love story.

This is not a typical romance by any means, and that is precisely what made it so compelling for me. The character development was superb. I really loved how flawed and damaged she let her heroes be, and not gratuitously either, she showed us how trauma and violence can ravage lives long after they stop. That humans show their pain in many different ways, but also that the things they do in their pain, are not WHO THEY ARE.

I also appreciated the reprimand she put forth, reminding us that when a tragedy happens, there are casualties on all sides, and when we try to be saviors, we inevitably forget some victims in the process.

Mostly though I just loved the writing, the depth of each character was exquisite, there is good and bad in all of us. For some that goodness survives even the most horrible pain, and for some being bad is the one thing they can rely on. James is a study in stoicism, and weakness, just human. He knows he is betraying himself with the choices he’s making, but he can’t stop the force of his feelings for Ben…And Ben, oohhh Ben, so beautiful and in so much pain. He completely annihilated me.

I appreciated so much, how the author showed an accurate picture on what trauma looks like, that traumatized children often times grow up to be traumatized adults, and that their pain can play out in many different ways, violence, self-harm, detachment…But also that happiness and healing are possible for them too, if they are supported, loved and willing to do the work.

The mystery I won’t get too much into, because it is twisty,turny, layered, and with such a wealth of messed up characters, you will NOT see it coming…If you are like me, it will make you yell at your kindle at 5:00am.

I can only hope there is more from this author very soon. Now the food.

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Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

  • 1 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
  • 12 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable  broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1 pound of spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

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Directions: Bring red wine to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook , stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and very tender and most of the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant, mushrooms and rosemary and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, broth and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in almond milk and 2 tablespoons chopped basil.

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To serve, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain thoroughly. Serve sauce over pasta and garnish with remaining basil, and parmesan cheese.

I hope you try the book, the wine and the pasta! They are an amazing combo.

Next week I’ll be posting some holiday cookie recipes and my favorite books of the year. It’s been a good year for romance readers, there has not been a lot of volume, but the good ones have been amazing!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laurax

 

 

 

Think of England by KJ Charles and an amazing Reisling.

Yes, yes, I AM a few months late with this review, but not in the slightest less excited to share my thoughts on this latest novel by the brilliant KJ Charles. These past few months have been incredibly busy for me with all kinds of things happening in my life, which sadly normally translates to cutting back on at least some of my hobbies! So, this past week I was getting ready to go on a mini-vacay with my family and decided to re-read Think of England, so as to have it fresh on my mind for the review. This second read, if possible, I enjoyed even more than the first and that is saying A LOT. KJ I think without a doubt is one of the more sophisticated historical romance authors I’ve read, this is a genre that specifically in M/M romance is frighteningly easy to foul up (with exceptions like the lovely Joanna Chambers and Jordan L Hawk).

KJ however excels where most fear to tread, a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has elegance to spare in her writing style, but also because  she sets her stories up on solid research, authentic dialogue and characters that don’t allow for distractions or confusions. If the woman says she’s taking us to 1904, than dammit that is where you will be for the next 200 pages or so! How about the actual story you say? The romance, the MENS, how where they? AMAZING. I mean Archie, a viking like war hero aristocrat…And Daniel and unrepentant poet with a VERY VERY sharp tongue…Oh KJ you are playing my song lady!  But she was not done, oh no, there was also intrigue, mystery, drama and aristocratic misbehavior here for miles, I was not bored for a millisecond and I could have wept from happiness when I heard there will be more from Archie Curtis and Daniel da Silva coming to us in the future.

For this awesome and very much posh setting and story I selected a lovely Reisling from the Willm winery in the island of Alsace. This wine has a sharp and fresh taste and it is just delightful to sip VERY cold. I enjoyed it many times this summer. For about $11 a bottle this wine is fantastic value.photo (2)

Now back to the story...Archie Curtis has his military service cut short when a faulty set of weapons was delivered to his platoon and ended up killing and or maiming his entire squad.  He walked away with a disfigured right hand he could barely use and a  There was foul play that he is certain of, but now he is not so sure by whom. The weapon manufacture, Lafayette, who had been held responsible for the accident came to Archie to say he had been framed…He said Armstrong his strongest competitor had framed him so he could take his contract. After he turns Lafayette away, and the guys turn up dead in the river, Archie is not sure what to think. That is how he ends up on his way to a two week long country house party at the Armstrong’s new country estate in Newcastle. Once he’s there he is immediately reminded of the reason why he was just not built for civilian life. These people have no purpose, how can they sit around and play for days on end? He does not fit in well with this lot…Especially once he is introduced to Daniel da Silva, the man is insufferable not only is his attire scandalous, but he makes no efforts to hide the fact that he is a homosexual. The women love da Silva’s wit but Archie is not amused, but he has not time to waste on the man or any of the other people at the house, he is there to find out what happened with the weapons that killed his brothers in arms and took his career.

Pretty soon Archie discovers that nothing is at it seems, there are sinister games at play in the Armstrong family. The more he digs the more he realizes Daniel da Silva could not only be useful to him, but may a valuable ally. The man is to clever for his own good, and that mouth he has…Archie discovers before too long that he is in over his head, with everything, and he will need to heroic one last time if he and Daniel are to get out of there alive.

This novel is in short, and absolute delight, both times I was at the edge of my seat, and had no clue how things would go. The showdown scene at the end was one of the most deliciously gruesome things I’ve read in awhile. I do love KJ Charles’ style, her heroes are men who do what they have to and are not afraid to get dirty, but they always try to do it for the right reasons. Daniel and Archie were DELICIOUS, and I seriously cannot wait to read more of their adventures in the espionage game. Loved loved loved.

If you have not read this, please PLEASE do…You will not regret it!

Think of England by KJ Charles is for sale here and here.

 

his People this is highly sophisticated mystery novel writing…That is just to whet your appetites, so to speak. We

Home the Hard Way by ZAM Maxfield w an Oregonian Pinot Noir and Sweet & Sour Stir Fry

home the hard wayEvery time I start a review for a ZA Maxfield book I feel like I need to disclaim my intense LOVE for her stories. So, just for the sake of tradition, I will state that ZAM has not ever written anything I haven’t loved. This book is no exception. Actually this one might be in my opinion some of her best writing. My stomach was in knots the whole time. The tone in this story is dark and dreary, with a mystery that kept my stomach in knots from beginning to end. The characters were a mixed bag of personalities that ranged from ethereal, to strange, to deeply twisted. The tone, the setting and the humans in this book all flowed though. It was bleak, but it was also very easy to connect with the heroes. Dare and Finn are a mess, so much baggage yet all I wanted for them was to be able to have at least a chance, just a chance for some happiness.

For this book I selected a wine from Oregon wine country, the Rascal Pinot Noir is a pretty light red wine. Not too full, but still flavorful, definitely a red that can be enjoyed even in the warm summer weather. It goes for about $10 a bottle which is a pretty nice deal. For food I decided to make a quick and easy meal. I figure neither of these two guys have much interest in the kitchen, so I went with something easy and flavorful. I made a Sweet & Sour Stir Fry that you can make with pretty much any kind of protein or even just veggies. Served on top of rice it’s a fast and filling meal.

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You can never go home…Dare only wishes that were true. Dare was a guy who lost his anchor after the inexplicable suicide of his father, and from then on he just drifted. Sometimes he let his dick mess things up for him, sometimes he let his drinking do it. The kid who had it all together growing up in Palladian, Oregon was not the man that came back to the little town  after essentially destroying his career as a homicide detective in Seattle. He’s to come home in shame to Palladian to take a job he only got as a favor to his father memory at the local police department. Dare has failed everything and everyone in his life. Especially Finn Fowler.

Finn the little kid Dare rescued from a bully back from elementary school and protected fiercely for the next four years. Finn who he walked away form without a single word for the next fifteen. Finn the only thing in Palladian that had even a hint of home. Finn he’s always been a yearning in Dare. The things he feels for Finn, he’s never felt for anyone else. He wants to protect Finn, to save him. But he failed his friend when he left him without a second glance, and the Finn that he’s found is not the Finn that he left. This man is harder and darker and has secrets. SO MANY secrets. He’s also had a lot harder life than he deserved. Finn has gone through so much, it’s made him cynical it seems and so shut off. The only thing he seems to care about is his aunt who is in the last stages of cancer.  Dare wants to help, he needs to step up, but he is such a mess himself. It seems like everything in his life went off the rails the day his father took his own life and it never got back on track. Maybe if he finds out once and for all what really happened to his father than the dark cloud over his life could dispel. Just seems the more he uncovers the less he understands.

I think this book is some of ZAM’s best writing. One thing I enjoy more and more with everyone of her books is that her stories and her men are not subscribed to any sort of formula. So even though I recognize her brand, the stories feel new. When ZAM does a darker story, her men are flawed yes, but they are also incredibly easy to empathize with. Because they are broken  in ways we can all relate to. Dare and Finn were easy to love and even easier to root for. Palladian was also an incredibly rich setting, there is a saying in Spanish “Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande…Small Town, Big Hell” and that in a few words was Palladian. A town that thrived on secrets, lies, gossip and pettiness to a level of gluttony where it was literally eating it’s young. What a place. I hope we get to visit Palladian again, because the drama in that town definitely captured my interest. It was like a blend between Wisteria Lane and Twin Peaks. Very intriguing place Palladian was.

This book was solid. A hefty mystery which kept me guessing, very interesting characters, a love story that although was not high on the romance it had plenty of depth to make my heart ache at the right moments. The writing itself was pretty wonderful too.

Totally recommend.

Home the Hard Way is out today from Riptide Publishing and is available for purchase here.

Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Recipe

1 cup of rice (cook according to intructions)

2 cups of chopped veggies (I used onions, baby corn, brocoli, carrots, bell peppers and mushrooms)

1 cup of shrimp (you can use any other protein you want like chicken or beef)

1 clove of garlic minced

olive oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp agave nectar/brown sugar

1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons of cornstarch

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl stir until the are well blended and set aside. In a large hot skillet saute the garlic for a  minute, add the protein and stir until it is cooked. Remove the protein and set aside, in the same pan  add a bit of sesame seed oil and saute the veggies for about two minutes.

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Add the sauce to the skillet and stir for a minute. When the sauce starts to thicken add the protein and simmer on low for a couple minutes. Serve over white rice and enjoy with your glass of wine!

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Hope you enjoy the book, the meal and the wine!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

Every Inferno by Johanna Parkhurst

EveryInfernoLG (1)JJ keeps having nightmares from the day his parents died. That day, that he lost everything. His whole family. He was just a little kid at the movies with his parents, and in just a few minutes he was an orphan.  Lost his mom, his dad, even his baby sister was taken away from him.

JJ is bitter sure, I mean who wouldn’t be, and yeah he drinks too much which is really a problem at 14, but he’s got so much in his head. So many bad memories and that man he keeps seeing in his dreams, he knows that man was the one that set that fire that killed all those people at the theater where his parents died.

JJ feels hopeless all the time, seems like no matter how much he tries he keeps messing up, and he keeps getting in trouble. He’s a burden. A burden to his aunt who took him in after his parents died a burden to his school, to the town, even to his little sister who he barely sees these days.

JJ is having a hard time figuring stuff out, and then there is the whole thing with liking boys. He hasn’t give this particular issue very much thought, but his friendship with Mckinley is making it harder and harder to ignore.

He wants to do good, he does, but he won’t be able to get peace until he can let go of the past, of what happened to parents. He knows that the only way to do that is to finally figure out what happened the night they died. He has his suspicions and starts looking into them little by little…Except life is happening to him finally. He is making headway, most days he doesn’t have that sinking feeling that fucking up his life for good is just a matter of time.

He’s letting people into his life and that is making a difference. He can even see his sister again now that he is not messing up all the time. He’s making progress, but there are still things that hold him back and the more he looks into how his parents died, the more he thinks the person who did is still out there.

I like how Johanna writes very much, she’s got a great sense for how young minds work and she is VERY aware that young doesn’t mean dumb or emotionally stunted. Young people struggle with big feelings and big issues, many times on their own because their very struggles make them feel completely isolated. They need support and they need a little faith some times to get on track and move on.  JJ learned to rely on himself, and to open up to others who would hold him up, and that made the difference in him being able to move one.

I enjoyed this story because it felt familiar and it felt true to life, sometimes we are our own obstacle, and sometimes we just need a break and something to hope for.  The mystery was also pretty intriguing, and kept me on my toes until the end. I liked the bit of darkness Johanna added here and I certainly enjoyed the lightness she threaded through it as well.

Great young adult title, totally recommend.

Every Inferno is available for purchase here.

Cheers and happy reading!

Laura

Tequila Mockingbird by Rhys Ford and Cauliflower Rice with Baked Tofu…And MOAR Rosé

Tequila MockingbirdLG (1)WOW! Well it’s been a few weeks since I posted anything…Life takes over and I one ends up doing all the drinking and eating offline. The HORROR. To get me back in the groove I’ve got three posts planned over then next few days, the first is my review for the third installment of the Sinners Series by the most lovely Rhys Ford. This book Tequila Mockingbird brings us back to the unlikely tribe of Irish cops and wayward rock stars. We meet up with the guys in San Francisco a not long after the end of the second book and we get right into it.

This time around Connor the oldest of the Morgan boys gets hit hard by the love bug when he arrives at the scene of a crime and encounters Forest Ackerman the adoptive son of the man’s whose murder he is there to investigate. Forest is skittish and quiet and brings out Connor’s protective side like no one has ever done before. He wants to care for him, the thing is he is not really gay…

For this book I wanted to make something with and Asian flavor since so many of Rhys’ books are set in San Francisco with lots of glimpses from Chinatown I thought the Crispy Peanut Tofu with Rice Cauliflower from The Minimalist Baker would be PERFECT for this one. I paired this yummy dish with a lovely South African Rose wine that has made it’s way to my table many a time already this summer  the 2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé quite frankly wins EVERYTHING. It is delicious, smooth to drink, fruity and fragrant without sweetness. For $9.00 a bottle it’s a win-win.

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Onto the story. So we catch up with the Morgan brood once more and this time the hot older brother is the star of the show. Connor Morgan meets Forest Ackerman while investigating the murder of the man’s father. From the get go Forest awakens feelings in Connor the he just cannot explain. Not only is the man clearly in need of someone to care for him, but he looks at Connor like he is the solution to all his problems. The sexy slight drummer is setting off something in Connor that so far he’s only “seen” happen to his brother and cousin with THEIR mates, but could never imagine happening to him. So when bad things start happening around Forest’s home and business, and it becomes clear whoever killed his dad is out to get him too, Connor steps in and takes the man to his home. No way is he going to stand by and let him get hurt. Sure it’s possesive and a little crazy since HE IS STRAIGHT, but who cares, it’s not like there isn’t a precedent in the family.

Despite the intensity of his feelings Connor is torn, he never envisioned himself with a  man. All he aspired to be was just like his dad, and being gay just did not fit with that plan. He has to make peace with this because there is no way that he will be the reason for more hurt in Forest’s life. The man has not had it easy, if it weren’t for Frank that man who took him off the streets and gave him the closest thing he knew for a home he would have never made it past his teens. There is a lot to soothe and clean inside of Forest’s heart and Connor knows he is the man meant to do it.

As for Forest never saw this Irish cop coming, one moment he was living his regular (well as close to regular as it was with Frank) and the next his whole life had been blown up, literally. He is all alone in the world(other than his mother who doesn’t exactly count as someone who would care)  and that feeling of being bereft and completely on his own makes him want to seek the protection he can see Connor wants to offer. He’s only ever had one person who ever cared about him at all, and putting his trust in Connor, the prospect of letting him know the ugly things in his past feels very scary. He feels like he has to though, the closer they get the more Forest feels like he’s found the man and the family he’s always wanted. He has doubts of course, because Connor and his family, they are AMAZING, so wholesome and perfect and how could he a rentboy whose own mother would sell him for a few bucks fit into that perfect picture? But the more he gets to know Connor, his family and the two men who have recently joined the brood the more he realizes these people could not have been more perfect for a family.

This book had all the elements that make Rhys’ writing so damn readable. Two heroes who are intensely into each other, good plot, interesting mystery and a lot of opportunities to visit with characters that we deeply care for. The erotica was top notch incredibly sexy and yet not even a hit of discordance to the tone of the book.  Solid writing as always. Will be anxiously waiting for the next one! At this point I’m hoping to get adopted by the Morgan clan myself!

‘Tis a good one. Recommend.

Tequila Mockingbird is available for purchase here.

Peanutty Sauce Bakes Tofu with Cauliflower Rice

This recipe was borrowed from the fabulous Minimalist Baker blog.

Ingredients:

For the stir fry:

  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu, organic & non-GMO if possible*
  • 1 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
For the sauce:
  • 1.5 Tbsp Toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce (gluten free for GF eaters)
  • 3.5 – 4 Tbsp light brown sugar (or honey if not vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter (natural, salted)

Add ons:

  • baby bok choy, green onion, red pepper, broccoli

Directions

Begin by draining tofu 1.5 hours before you want your meal ready. If your block of tofu is larger than 12 ounces, trim it down. To drain the tofu wrap in in a couple layers of paper towel and then into a kitchen towel. Put in under something heavy. I use a cast iron pan and weigh pan down with a bag of flour. Keep it like that for about 30 minutes

Whiele draining the tofu preheat oven t 400 degrees F. Once tofu is dry uncover it and cube it.  Place it on a baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Bake for 25 minutes to dry/firm the tofu. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool.

Tofu after baking.

Tofu after baking.

Prepare sauce by whisking together ingredients until combined. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

Add cooled tofu to the sauce and stir to coat. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes to saturate the tofu and infuse the flavor.

In the meantime, shred your cauliflower into rice in the food processor. You don’t want it too fine, sort of the size of cooked rice. Set aside.

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart

Cauliflower after I pulsed it on the Cuisinart

 

Mince garlic if, and prepare any veggies you want to add to the dish. I basically cut the bok choy in half and brushed it with some soy sauce and sesame seed oil and sauteed them for two minutes on a skillet. Set veg aside and keep warm.

Bok-Choy

Bok-Choy

Use a slotted spoon to spoon tofu into the preheated pan. Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to coat. Cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes until browned. It will stick to the pan a bit, just . Remove from pan and set aside and cover to keep warm. In a clean pan (could be the one you used for the tofu after a rinse) add a drizzle of sesame oil to the pan, then add garlic and cauliflower rice and stir. Put cover on to steam the “rice.” Cook for about 5-8 minutes until slightly browned and tender, stirring occasionally. Then add a few spoonfuls of sauce to season and stir. To serve top cauliflower with veggies and tofu. Serve with any leftover sauce, and enjoy with the your glass of Rosé.

Hope you enjoy the recipe and wine!!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

 

The Silence of the Stars by Kate McMurray w Pasta Frutti di Mare and a fab French White.

SilenceoftheStars[The]LGKate McMurray does something in her books that I love. She mixes culture, setting and characters in a way that make her stories rich and interesting every single time. This book, a spin off  The Stars the Tremble,  is a beautiful love story of two men who have not been able to find what they are looking for. Sandy and Everett in each other not only find love, but they find ways to heal, so that they can build the life they always wanted.

Kate’s book always appeal to me because she writes about things I love, like baseball, the opera, or the magic of New York city. Sandy and Everett’s story had the music, and New York City as lovely complements to their romance. This story as charming as it was, also dealt (very well I thought) with PTSD and the struggle with which so many men and women in this country live with when they return from war. There is so much stigma in admitting to being damaged on the inside. Voicing that your head and your heart might never heal even after your body has is something that is just not done. Sandy came back from war broken inside and he just powered through all that pain. He needed to heal and forgive himself and Everett needed to trust his heart to someone that could really treasure it, just as it was.

For this book I wanted to make something a little fancy, like Everett could be, but also fast and simple like Sandy would be able to make if he was in the mood to do a little romancing. So, I came up with a quick and SUPER easy pasta e frutti di mare (pasta with seafood) recipe. I paired it with a lovely French white blend wine that is absolutely perfect to enjoy a seafood dish. The Domaine de Pajot Les Quatre Cepages is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Gros Manseng, it’s a crisp and lightly fruity wine with no sweetness. A wonderful complement to the dish, for about $9.00 a bottle also a great deal!

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Now the story. Sandy has never been very lucky in love. He was in the closet for most of his 20s and 30s while he served in the military. Once he was discharged after a injury during active combat he came back home to NYC and found a good job working with his best friend Mike in his contracting business, he was settled and even bought a house to fix up. But love, it didn’t really pan out. He couldn’t seem to get past one night stands or relationships with men that wanted to change him. After his last breakup Sandy was starting to feel a bit hopeless that he might never have the family he always wanted. That is until Sandy gets to his new contracting job in Brooklyn and meets his new client. Everett Blake, is a violinist and also the hottest thing Sandy has ever seen. They are both on the same page with the attraction and pretty soon they are having a hot and heavy affair.

Both Sandy and Everett can sense that they can fall pretty hard for each other but they are unsure. They each have their insecurities, Sandy still struggles with the memories from his time in Afghanistan and Everett is still trying to figure out what it is that makes him end up in relationships that make him feel so bad about who he is and what makes him happy. They are reluctant to bet on each other. Meanwhile Sandy is fixing up his house with his own hands and is trying to hold on to his dream of filling it up with family, a man he loves and children to raise together. But things are not looking too good for Sandy’s dream, even after meeting Everett and how good they are together. Maybe he’s just too damaged.

This book dealt with a pretty heavy subject, but it did so in a way that was respectful and not melodramatic which I appreciated. Sandy and Everett were falling in love,  and that involved them getting to know the wonderful as well as the not so nice sides to each other. Everett parent’s were snobby and judgmental, while Sandy was struggling to move past his trauma. Things were far from perfect, but they made it work, because they were in love and their future would be much better together than it would be apart.

I love Kate’s writing, it’s quiet and thoughtful and she gives her characters so much depth. Her men are all flesh and blood, and they have a vulnerability that always affects me. In this series particularly I really enjoyed the contrast of her heroes, the blue collar guys with the classical musicians, so unlikely and yet they were just right for each other.  She just goes to the core of what is most important, love…There is always common ground to be discovered and explore when love is the foundation. All in all I really enjoyed this book. I just plain love Kate’s writing.

Definitely recommend.

The Silence of the Stars is available for purchase here.

Pasta Frutti di Mare

1 pack of spaghetti or linguine

3 garlic cloves minced

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped

1 cup of white wine (I used the Domaine the Pajot!)

1 dozen large raw shrimp peeled with tails

1 can of chopped clams with juice

1 can of mussels in juice

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon spoon of cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water.

salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a hot sautee pan put the butter, oil and garlic at medium-high heat. After a minute add the garlic, sautee for a minute stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the shrimp and cook for two minutes after they look cooked take out and set aside. In the same pan add the wine,  mussels and clams with juice to the mix.

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Make sure you mix in the garlic and butter on the pan to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to simmer and cook for five minutes or so. Once the mix is fragrant add the cornstarch and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the shrimp back to the sauce, toss in pasta and parsley. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Hope you enjoy the book and give the food and wine a try. They are all quite delicious and perfect for these summer months!

Cheers and Happy Reading!