Friday, January 31, 2014

Disaster Chef: Pear Pecan Steel Cut Oats (project pinterest)

I bought a bunch of steel cut oats a while back because I heard they were healthier than rolled oats. I didn't know how to cook them, so I did the overnight oatmeal with the first batch. It was okay, but my son did not like the 'chewy oatmeal.' So I ended up eating all 5 jars that I'd made for the week. The next time, I tried to cook it, but didn't leave it in nearly long enough and it was very chewy.

This time I made it the right way, cooking it for a long time with lots of water as directed in the article on two vrooms blog.
Here's their recipe:

1/4 tsp salt
1 c. steel cut oats
1 T + 1 tsp butter
1/2 c. pecans
2 tsp sugar
2 pears (peeled, cored, sliced into chunks). If you don't have or don't like pears, try this recipe with apples instead.
3 T honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Half and half

In a medium size sauce pan, boil 4 c. water and salt. Add steel cut oats and wait for it to boil again. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer (uncovered) for 25-35 minutes, stirring often.

In a frying pan, melt 1 tsp butter. Add pecans and sugar. Stir 1 minute: the sugar should melt and coat the toasty pecans. Move them to a cutting board and chop coarsely when cooled.

Right before your oatmeal is done, melt a tablespoon of butter in the frying pan again. Add the pears and stir occasionally for 3 minutes. The juice should come out of them and they should be hot all the way through. Add honey and cinnamon.

It turned out delicious. My son even ate it a couple days, though he still prefers rolled oats. For this recipe, I used pears from the tree outside our new house, which was exciting. I'm not a big fan of pears, but I wanted to find ways to use up the ones on the tree, since they were there and obviously all-natural and organic and not sprayed. So we collected a bucket of them and used some in this recipe. I made it later for my husband, and he liked it, too.

I did not prepare the pecans as directed in the recipe. I just used plain pecans. I added more honey to the pears than the recipe calls for, and more butter, and I cooked the pears for probably 15-20 minutes before they got juicy and somewhat cooked. I didn't want to cook the pecans, as I don't like the way sugar-coated things feel between my teeth. Plus, raw nuts are healthier. So I just threw a handful of raw pecans on top. This breakfast was great all week, healthy and tasty. Sure, it's still just oatmeal. But it was as exciting as oatmeal gets

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review Wednesday: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (The Cousins War Book 2)

The Red Queen (The Cousins' War, #2)The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although this isn’t my favorite of the handful of Gregory books I’ve read, it did give me a great sense of respect for the author. That she was able to create a character so unlikeable, selfish, vain, and entitled, and somehow make us sympathize and pull for that character is a testament to the author’s skill. It helped that most of the characters in the book were equally despicable, or more so, ensuring that even though our heroine has few redeeming qualities, we still want what she wants. It also helped that the character was all these things in part because of the awful things that were done to her because of circumstance (being a woman in this time period, of a certain social standing) and the convenience of others (mostly her own family).
The aspect of the novel that struck me most powerfully wasn’t the character, although the protagonist is developed well (unlike many others in the novel). What struck me was the historical background—not the events themselves, which I already knew in outline, but the details of the period. The way children, especially females but almost equally males, were treated by adults horrified me. They weren’t thought of as human at all, but as political pawns used to increase wealth, status, or connections to royalty. Little girls were married off in whatever fashion was most advantageous to the family, while little boys were taken from their families to be raised by others so they could form alliances with other powerful households. That no one ever seemed to stop for a half-second and ask, “Is this going to damage this child?” seems to speak volumes to the money-, power-, and position-hungry mindset of the time. In this social class, those close enough to royalty to increase their standing by manipulation of fortunes through their children, seemed a despicable lot as a whole. That they were too busy vying for position to notice that their children might need, say, a mother, is a testament to the age-old money-grubbing nature of man, and reminds us that this is nothing new in our society, but something that has been going on for centuries, sometimes in more horrible forms than others.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 24, 2014

Disaster Chef: Crockpot Molten Lava Cake (Foodie Friday)

Finished product
I was having a 'Razing the Roof' party a while back, and needed to feed a handful of hungry dudes afterwards. Since the house was a disaster zone, I had to cook on the back porch. Crockpot meals was the obvious solution, since it was not really grilling weather. So I threw some chili in the big crockpot and then went in search of a dessert recipe. I'm picky about my desserts, but this one looked delicious. So I got it together, fixing the dry ingredients first as suggested in the recipe.

AFTER melting the butter and adding extra milk.

When I was ready to throw it all in the little Crock-pot, it was ready to go. But the recipe may not be exactly correct. With only 1/2 cup of milk, it was thicker than bread dough. I had to add at least another 1/4 cup, maybe more, just to make it spreadable in the bottom of the crock-pot. Then I added the chocolate chips and liquid, like it said.
I apologize for the lack of pictures of the finished product. I was busy feeding everyone and being hostess, so I didn't remember to stop and take a picture. We had one scoop left, which I sent with my husband to work, and he's not very confident in his food photography abilities. It would not look very delicious if I posted the pictures he sent me from his phone before he ate it!

I can't say it was the most delicious dessert ever. I only cooked this one 3 hours, instead of the 4, and it was still too dry and not very lava-licious. Plus, it just tasted a little...healthy. Like it needed some more butter and some eggs. I've never made a cake without eggs before, and I'm not sure I will again. If I'm going to be decadent and eat something like molten lava chocolate cake, I'm splurging. I don't want it to taste all granola. I want it to be rich and sinful, so I can indulge.

Recipe: 2 spoons out of 5--easy, but had to be changed b/c of lack of liquid. Also, it doesn't say to melt the butter, which added a bit of liquid, but still nowhere near enough. If you don't, it's just a blob sitting on top of the dough.
Cake itself: 2 spoons

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Accepting or Rejecting Writer Advice

You see it every day, all over Facebook, Pinterest boards, Twitter, and every other electronic forum/social media site: quotes by famous authors on writing. Memes. Funny e-cards. All with an overwhelming amount of advice for the hoards of us struggling through, and a lucky few breezing through, our novels. Every time I read one of these, I think it's a great quote with merit. So what happens when these famous authors begin to contradict one another? Do you choose to follow the advice of the one you admire more? The, "I want to be like him so I'll follow his advice" attitude. If that worked, we'd have many more Hemingways and Twains than we do.

With as many writers as we've had, and even more now, it's inevitable that all the advice won't be in perfect agreement. Writers love giving advice. Nowhere can you find a people more fascinated by our profession than writers. Why? Because it's a mystery. The well-known comparison of novel and baby works here, too. There's nothing a pregnant woman loves talking about more than pregnancy. Why? Because that baby growing inside is like some kind of miracle, some wonderful mystery. So, too, is the novel taking place in the writer's head. The only solution is to seek to explain it somehow, make sense of something that makes very little sense even to those doing it.

As with love, as with motherhood, there is no perfect way to write a novel. There are pantsers and planners. There are those who say, with regards to writing as well as love, "If it's worth working for, you must work for it!" and those who say, "If it don't come easy, you better let it go." To this, I will throw in my own two cents. If it's coming easy, that's a wonderful thing. You are blessed. Don't stop writing for anything. Because one day, it may stop coming so easy. And when it does, you will have to, as Hemingway famously said, "Sit down at the typewriter, and bleed."

I speak from experience here. On several occasions I churned out 50 pages in one day, leaving my brain feeling like a cooked potato. Now, I'm lucky if I can pry 5 pages from my miserly muse. I couldn't tell you what changed for all the money in Mr. Gates's bank account. One day it was easy, and the next thing I knew, it wasn't. I thought this was a phase I would let pass, so I stopped writing fiction for two years. I kept a journal, went back to dabbling in poetry, came up with an idea or two and followed them for the ten or so pages until they turned to ether and vanished. And then, I got tired of waiting for the muse, and I sat down at my computer, and bled.

Yes, it is frustrating. Sometimes my characters refuse to tell me what's going on, so I make something up, and later, they tell me I was wrong, and I have to go back and change their family, their back story, even their names. But there is something on the page. And that's better than nothing. Maybe one day, my Prinspiration will come, scoop me up on the inspiration pony and ride away with me. Until then, I'll struggle to pull my ox out of the mud.

My best advice for writers is this: Don't stop writing. When it's easy, go with it. When it's hard, dig for it. When you finish it and it's amazingly magically perfect, set it aside and come back to it later (if it's a first draft, it's not perfect, I promise). When it's ugly, edit it and rewrite it until it's passable. Then, when you have finished one novel, whatever your process, whatever your product, pick up your proverbial pen and start all over again.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Disaster Chef: Baked French Toast (Project Pinterest)

This was a recipe I tried out during Christmas break when my family was here. My son isn't the biggest fan of French toast because he says it's too soggy, but he loved this. The recipe can be found here, on Parade.

Here's the recipe:


  • 1 (12½ oz) loaf of favorite bread (such as challah), cut into 1-inch-thick slices
  • 3 cup whole milk
  • 7 large eggs
  • ½ cup light-brown sugar
  • ¼ cup real maple syrup, plus more for serving
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg


  1. Generously butter a 13 x 9–inch casserole. Arrange bread slices in dish, staggering in rows.
  2. In large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour over bread and press down, making sure slices absorb liquid. Cover with foil.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove foil and bake casserole 55 minutes to 1 hour, until puffy and golden. Serve with more maple syrup, if desired. 

I used whole wheat bread and spread it out on two dishes because when I layered the bread, it wasn't under the milk. We only had 2 cups of milk, so I used that and a half cup of half & half. Our chickens definitely don't lay large eggs, so ours were small. I used only 2 tbsp. of sugar and syrup, and 1 tbsp. of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg. I baked until the bread got puffy and took it out. It got nice and crisp on top, and everyone liked it, even my son, since it was not at all soggy.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review Wednesday: The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory (Cousin's War Book 1)

The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I mistakenly started with the second book in this series, which I may have to read again after reading this one. But I enjoyed this one so much more!

Gregory has a great talent for bringing to life all these historical characters, filling in their lives with drama, romance and intrigue. Yes, we are talking about Henry VIII's grandmother here, but don't expect any grandmotherly-ness. The book is full of court intrigue, politics, and lots and lots of romance. It wasn't quite as spicy as something like The Other Boleyn Girl, but her writing has come far since then (adverbs are scare here, thank goodness).

The only complaint I had in this one was that I wanted a more satisfactory answer to the unsolved mystery of the son's disappearance from the tower. But I guess since no one knows what happened, she left the reader with the same frustration we have to this day. I found it interesting that she kept Richard alive, and I have a feeling we'll be hearing from him in The White Princess. I'll be looking forward to it!

View all my reviews

Friday, January 10, 2014

Disaster Chef: Pumpkin Pancakes (Project Pinterest)

So, maybe the first or second thing I ever made off Pinterest was pumpkin pancakes. But apparently I didn't pin the recipe! So this past fall, when we had tons of pumpkins from the garden, I went looking for the recipe I made the year before. Of course I didn't remember it/couldn't find it. But there were about a million pumpkin pancake recipes, so I picked one and rolled with it. This time I made sure to pin it, since my son really likes pumpkin pancakes.

I followed the recipe from table io pretty closely.

    Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I skipped this)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder (left this out)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (left this out)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients and mix using the flat beater attachment. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients with a spoon or whisk. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  2. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray and add about 1/4 cup pancake batter. Cook the first side until lightly brown and the edges begin to set. Flip the pancake over and cook until browned. Place a clean kitchen towel over the cooked pancakes as you prepare the rest.

I mixed all of it by hand and the batter was super thick. The kind of thick where the pancake doesn't cook in the center. And nothing is more yucky than raw pancakes batter in the center of an otherwise delicious pancake. So I added more milk to thin the batter. But then they got all weird and foamy like my snickerdoodle pancakes. At least these ones didn't taste all weird and sour! I added more flour to thicken them up, and then spread the pancakes very thin. The batter doesn't flow out nicely, so I had to spread each one in the pan, but once I did that, they cooked all the way through and were tasty enough for my son.

Pancake success.

Rating: Recipe 3.5 out of 5 spoons, after I figured out how to cook them.

Needed better instructions on spreading doughy batter. Wasted a few pancakes before I got it right.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cover Reveal: Clarissa Wild's FIERCE

Title: Fierce

Author: Clarissa Wild

Publication Date: January 27th 2014

Genre: New Adult Romance

Fight for your dreams. Fight for your life. Fight for love. 

Nerdy girl Autumn Blakewood is the prime example of a goodie two-shoes. She studies every night, is never late for class, and always follows the rules. She has never felt the need to step out of her comfort zone. That is, until she meets Hunter. 

 Hunter Bane is a cocky, confident bad-boy, who's nothing but trouble. He’s a dangerous distraction to everyone around him. Sexy and strong, Hunter enjoys the swooning effect he has on women. Especially those who aren't used to attention, like Autumn. 

 Autumn finds it hard not to give into Hunter’s advances, even though it all seems like a game to him. Trying to understand him is impossible, because he shrouds himself in mystery. 

What she doesn't know is that Hunter has more baggage than anyone should have to carry. When she discovers he's in an illegal frat club to save the one person that matters to him, Autumn realizes this could mean the end of her undeniable connection to him. Even their lives are at risk. 

But it's too late to turn back now ...

When he
comes up the steps, his gaze is already set on that one empty spot beside me.
I’m squeezing my legs together, as he sits next to me. My instinct is to scoot
far away, but I can’t; there’s nowhere to go.

I feel
watched, which isn’t strange, considering his gray eyes are practically trying
to penetrate my skin.

Anger is
seething inside him, I don’t have to look at him to know; I can feel it flow
out of him like a radiator that’s burning up.

God, I want
to die.

He keeps
staring at me, as if he has nothing better to do. My heartbeat is rising, and
I’m starting to feel really sweaty. I don’t know why he’s doing this, but it’s
freaking me out, and I don’t like it one bit.

“Don’t you
have to pay attention?” I say, avoiding his eyes.

“To You?

His words
make my insides broil.

teacher has already started talking.” I point to the front, but Hunter doesn’t
even flinch. His eyes are still on me like a hawk zooming in on his prey.

“I don’t

I swallow,
gathering the courage to turn my head and look at him. The moment my eyes make
contact with his I’m drowning. Drowning in amazement. Drowning in fear.

Fear of the

“But your
grades …” I stammer.

He snorts,
and a smile curls the corners of his mouth while he shakes his head. “Yeah,

And all I
can do is stare.

If looks
could kill, I would be dead.

He looks so
damn handsome when he smiles. It’s like everything around us fades and all I
ever want to see is that smile. It just makes me feel good.

But when
the smile disappears, so does my mood.

darkness falling over his face unsettles me.

In his eyes
I see the hurt, the worries, the insomnia. Sleepless nights have worn down his
face, making him look saggy and dull. But I know there’s so much more inside

stories and an undiscovered world I’m intrigued by.

I want to
know what’s in there. Inside him. Why he’s so angry and sad at the same time.

A sudden
overwhelming feeling to grab him and hold him tight takes me aback.

He’s having
so much trouble in his life right now, even though I have no idea what’s going
on. I can see it in his eyes that something is so wrong. And I want to help him
get through it.

But I don’t
come any close. I don’t move one muscle.

I’m scared.
Scared of what he can do. Scared of his power, and his temper.

In my mind I
can still see his bloodshot eyes and the hateful look on his face. He was in
that fight yesterday, I’m sure of it. The only question is who was the one
instigating it.

I open my
mouth, but nothing comes out.

I can’t ask
him. I just can’t get the words to come out. I’m really chicken shit.

wrong?” he says.

I shake my

“Then why
are you looking at me like that?”

inches closer. I instinctively draw back, but he scoots even farther to my
side. I’m scared to death he wants to do something to me, and I have no idea
what, which makes it even scarier.

A devious
smile appears on his face, and it’s almost as if he’s enjoying this. Taunting
me seems like his way to pass time in class. I don’t like it one bit, but on
the other hand I’m excited as hell.

He raises
his head, and his nostrils flare. I turn my head, my breath hitching in my
throat. I can’t look when he’s doing this, entering my private space uninvited.

It feels as
though his nose is close to my hair, because there’s hot air flowing close to
my ear. And then he inhales.

Holy shit.

Is he
smelling me?

I’m frozen
in place from sheer panic, my heart beating like crazy.

No guy has
ever come this close to me.

He lets out
a huge breath afterward and chuckles softly. His breath lingers on my ear, and
a shudder runs through me.

“I like
it,” he whispers.

Oh. My.
Fucking. God.

My skin
tingles where his hot breath brushed over me. My groin clenches, and my clit thumps.


His whisper
does this to me. Just a whisper.

I never
felt like this before. I think just died inside.

muffles a laugh. It’s like he can smell my fear.

He takes in
a sharp breath and moves back to his usual spot. As if what he did just now was
the most normal thing in the world.

I’m still
shaken, my body stiff from the encounter. I feel completely naked, and I know
he’s watching me.

The look in
his eyes is like that of a boy who just did something totally against the
rules. And it’s so fucking sexy I can’t stand it.

Clarissa Wild is the erotic romance author of the Blissful Series,
The Billionaire's Bet series, the Doing It Series and the Enflamed
Series. She is an avid reader and writer of sexy stories about hot men
and feisty women. Her other loves include her furry cat friend and
learning about different cultures. In her free time she enjoys watching
all sorts of movies, reading tons of books and cooking her favorite

Want to get an email when my next book is released?
Sign up here to receive a FREE short story:


Friday, January 3, 2014

Disaster Chef: Sweet Potato Casserole (Project Pinterest)

This casserole was all over Pinterest around Thanksgiving, and we had lots of sweet potatoes, so inevitably I found it a perfect match. Apparently so did my sisters--they both made it for their own Thanksgiving dinners.

I was making this for my husband's family, and since you just never know about internet recipes, I made a test run the day before. I made the gluten-free recipe that day, using our own sweet potatoes and xylitol instead of sugar. It turned out a little weird on the top--the xylitol didn't melt and it looked kind of floury on the top instead of all gooey and melty how it looks in the picture on Frugal Freebies blog. Here is their recipe. For her gluten-free version, check out her blog.

Conventional Version
4 Cups Mashed Sweet Potatoes ($2.00)
3/4 cup white sugar ($.40)-->I used only 1/2
1/4 cup melted butter (I used salted) ($.25)
1/3 cup milk ($.25)
2 beaten eggs ($.30)
1 tsp vanilla ($.10)

1/4 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces ($.25)
1/2 cup flour ($.25)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar ($.40)
1 Cup Pecans ($3.00)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and mix with a spoon and pour into an 11 x 7 x 1.5 casserole dish (I never grease it- but I doubt to would hurt if you wanted to). Set aside.
Cut cold butter into flour and brown sugar until it has the consistency of small peas. Add in pecans and stir to combine. This has a crumble topping type consistency.
Sprinkle the topping onto the sweet potato mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool for few minutes and then serve.
Serves 8-10 depending on portion.

I made it the regular way on Thanksgiving at the in-laws. I cut the sugar some because the sweet potatoes were already so sweet. But otherwise I followed the recipe. Again, the top never melted or got gooey how it looks in the picture. It was more crumbly than gooey. It was sort of ugly, honestly, and not that many people ate it, though the people who did gave me a few compliments.

I really like sweet potato casserole, and this was my first shot at it. I will try again next year, but with a different recipe.

Recipe: 2.5 out of 5 spoons
Prep & instructions: good, though it does not look like the picture

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Get The Renegades Ebook Free

Hey everyone!

If you missed The Renegades Release Party last month, you can get it free this week on Amazon. This is the only week to get it free, as it's an Amazon promo. So head over and grab it while you can! Click on the cover below to link to the Amazon page.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Should You Write What You Know?

Many, if not all, writers have probably heard this advice time and again. It's easy advice to give new writers. After all, it's easiest and most honest in your writing to write what you know. But is that what we should stick to?

I don't have an easy answer to that question. On the one hand, what you are familiar with is going to sound most comfortable. But if all writers stuck to what we knew, there would be no such genres as fantasy and science fiction. Some of the most brilliant works would not have been written. Because we have to write from our imaginations, too. After all, how much did H.G. Wells know about giant aliens, or time travel, or genetic mutations? Maybe something, but since time travel is still theoretical at this point, we have to assume he didn't "know" much about it. How much did Tolkien know about wizards and hobbits? How much did Lovecraft, or Shelley, or King know about... You get the point. On a personal note, I am not a vampire, or a teenager, or a man, or gay. I have never been in an arranged marriage, played basketball, dated a Catholic, or shot up heroin. And yet I have written about all of those things and plenty more that I've never experienced. But parts of me sneak into every character in every novel.

On the other hand, you have authors who write semi-autobiographical novels, and they are just as alive and wonderful, whether they are humorous Jack Gantos novels or disturbing abuse novels. And no matter what you're writing, you've probably had to do at least a teensy tiny bit of research. Even when I'm writing something that is purely from my imagination, I don't think I've ever made it through a book without having to do a little research, whether it's vampire lore or the age cutoffs for statutory rape in each state (ah, the things writers google).

So I guess the best advice I can give is, write what interests you, even if it's not what you know. Write what fascinates you, what you're passionate about, especially if no one else is writing about it. Chances are, someone else is interested in that subject too. Think no one wants to read caveman romances? Auel's readership would disagree. There's a readership for just about anything. If your craft is strong and you are honest in what you write, you don't have to know it, at least not initially. You will write it and research it until you do know it. You will find your plotline and follow it, and when you know that, you're on the right track.