Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Title: Finnikin of the Rock
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre:
Publisher: Viking Australia
Publishing Date: September 29th 2008
Paperback: 416 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book one of the Lumatere Chronicles

Summary:
At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. He stands on the rock of the three wonders with his friend Prince Balthazar and Balthazar's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood to safeguard Lumatere.

But all safety is shattered during the five days of the unspeakable, when the king and queen and their children are brutally murdered in the palace. An impostor seizes the throne, a curse binds all who remain inside Lumatere's walls, and those who escape are left to roam the land as exiles, dying by the thousands in fever camps.

Ten years later, Finnikin is summoned to another rock—to meet Evanjalin, a young novice with a startling claim: Balthazar, heir to the throne of Lumatere, is alive. This arrogant young woman claims she'll lead Finnikin and his mentor, Sir Topher, to the prince. Instead, her leadership points them perilously toward home. Does Finnikin dare believe that Lumatere might one day rise united? Evanjalin is not what she seems, and the startling truth will test Finnikin's faith not only in her but in all he knows to be true about himself and his destiny.
Review:

When Finnikin was nine years old and the world was still full of promise, he and his two best friends promised to protect the kingdom of Lumatere. Unfortunately, nine year-olds aren't the best protection you can get and the royal family is killed just a few days later during the five days of the unspeakable. As thousands rush to escape the imposter king and his brutality, an evil curse is laid across Lumatere and no one can get in or out. As the people stuck inside the city suffer years of cruelty, those stuck outside the cities are left to wander as refugees in a land where no one wants them. Left to die in fever camps and live in poverty, the people of Lumatere have started to lose hope of ever regaining what was taken from them. Finnikin of the Rock has been traveling with his mentor, Sir Topher, for nearly ten years. As they work together and try to find a new land for their people, Finnikin dreams a strange girl, Evanjalin, will lead them to their lost heir Balthazaar. Even though Balthazaar is believed to have died during the five days of the unspeakable, Finnikin cannot resist the hope Evanjalin promises. Thus, they set out to find the lost heir and unite their people in a journey no one will ever forget.

Okay, I know that summary was a bit flowery, but this book has everything I look for in a fantasy novel: betrayal, love, friendship, dedication, an evil foe, politics, family, overcoming the odds, and a relatively happy ending. Sometimes a book will subvert these themes, but most of the time it's enough to just write an engaging interesting story that uses the same-old tropes. Fantasy is where I retreat when I need a comforting genre and Finnikin of the Rock was just what I needed to wash my hands of all the bad dystopias I've been reading.

Even though the story wasn't particularly surprising, group of rebels fighting against terrible tyrant, the characters really stood out to me. For one, all of them had their own problems and quirks. None of them were perfect, but they weren't too flawed either. This made the characters feel fleshed out and singular, but also made it possible for me to root for them. Finnikin was likable but also really frustrating at times. Evanjalin was stubborn and yet courageous. Even though Evanjalin was really the only female character that saw a lot of face time, another common fantasy trope, Marchetta did a good job of making her both sensitive and strong. She was the kind of character I love to find in books. Since all of the characters had their own issues, the relationships were also more nuanced then I usually come across. I could understand why these people wanted to be together and that's always a pleasant surprise.

The only issues I had with this story was the way the "enemy" was never fleshed out. The horrible things that happened when Lumatere was cut off from the rest of the world was described and I really felt for their struggles, but the people who committed these atrocities were never developed. I also thought the ending was a bit drawn out as any woman reading could guess what the prophecy meant. The characters, especially Evangelin, also lost some of their specialness I thought. Other than that though, I loved this book. It even managed to surprise me a few times. There's just not much more to say without giving anything away.

Verdict:

If you love fantasy, then this is the book for you. Even though this is technically book one in a trilogy, each book follows a different character so this can be read as a stand along book. Another thing I loved.

Rating: 8. Excellent – some laughing and/or crying involved

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter Rebecca Black 'Friday' Parody

This is a bit hilarious:



I don't even know what to say.

Budget Dinners: Easy Chicken Tacos

Okay, I know it's silly to post a recipe for tacos but I just can't help myself. I was first drawn to this recipe by how easy it was and the unique ingredients it uses. Worcestershire and orange juice? Crazy I know, but somehow these few ingredients become magic. Honestly, I can't see myself making chicken tacos any other way now. A tortilla, some chicken, a few toppings, and a squirt of lime - mmmm taco heaven.

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The combination of flavors seems weird, but it's perfect. Also, I only used two chicken breasts and it was perfect for us three. Four seems a bit much.

Would I make this again? Oh yes.

Easy Chicken Tacos

To warm the tortillas, wrap them in foil and heat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Top the tacos with shredded lettuce, grated cheese, diced avocado, tomato, and sour cream.


Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves , minced
2 teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Salt and pepper
12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Directions:

1. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chipotle and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in orange juice, Worcestershire, and 1/2 cup cilantro and bring to boil.

2. Add chicken and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until meat registers 160 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking. Transfer to plate and tent with foil.

3. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in mustard.

4. Using 2 forks, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to skillet. Add remaining cilantro to skillet and toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortillas.

Source: Cooks Country

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Music Thursday


New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week (it's a weird mix):

Don and Sherri by Matthew Dear:



I Walked by Sufjan Stevens:



A Tapdancer’s Dilemma by Diablo Swing Orchestra:



Became by Atmosphere:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time

It's no secret that I love dystopia. There's just something about totalitarian governments and the extent people will go to survive that gets to me. Maybe it's because it combines my love of the dramatic and my passion for politics. Who knows? All I know is I adore it. On my quest for finding new books, since new dystopia is less than wonderful, I came across this post for the Top 50 Dystopian Movies of All Time. Let's just say my Netflix queue is overflowing.


There are some old favorites (Total Recall, Children of Men, The Matrix, Starship Troopers, etc.), but there are also a lot of films that escaped my notice (Equilibrium, Strange Days, District 13). If you're a fan of dystopia I'd definitely recommend checking out the list. Some people have argued that not all of the movies are really dystopians, but I'm pretty happy with the mix. I love lists!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thai Chicken Pizza (on Naan Bread)

I came across the idea for a Thai chicken pizza using naan bread rather then traditional pizza dough on foodgawker and I knew I had to give it a try. The original recipe seemed too simple though so I decided to use a recipe from California Pizza Kitchen instead. I've never had this particular pizza at the restaurant so I can't say how accurate it is, but I can say this is a tasty and simple way to prepare dinner. I know carrots and peanuts seem like a weird pizza topping, but it really works here. Everything comes together perfectly and using naan bread in place of the pizza dough makes everything really simple.

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I know the ingredient list is crazy long, but you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. The only thing I had to get was the oyster sauce and I used Sirachi for the chili sauce. The naan bread I used was garlic flavored and super tasty. Oh and I didn't use bean sprouts since the store didn't have any.

Besides the naan bread the only changes I made were to roast the chicken in the oven before shredding it and cut the sauce in half. I also added only a spoonful of peanut butter since I'm not a huge fan and some people complained about it being too strong. It worked out perfectly for me, but do what you like. I also avoided coating the chicken in the sauce because I didn't want the sauce to be overpowering.

Would I make this again? For sure. I plan on making this the next time we have a movie night since it'd be a great appetizer.

Ingredients:

Spicy peanut sauce:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced ginger (or more if you wish)
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon vietnamese chili sauce (or dried chili flakes)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoons water

Thai chicken pieces:

1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

For the pizza:

Naan bread (or pizza dough)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 scallions, slivered diagonally
1/2 cup white bean sprouts
1/4 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (500 degrees if you're using regular pizza dough).

1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small pan over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a boil; boil gently for one minute. Divide into 2 portions for use on chicken and pizza; set aside.

2. To make Thai chicken: Cook the chicken in olive oil over med-high heat, stirring, until just cooked; 5 to 6 minutes do not overcook. Set aside in refrigerator until chilled through. Once chilled, coat the chicken with 1/4 cup sauce. Set aside in refrigerator.

3. To make the pizza: Use a large spoon to spread 1/4 cup sauce evenly over pizza dough within the rim. Cover sauce with 3/4 cup cheese. Distribute half the chicken pieces over the cheese followed by half the green onions, bean sprouts, and carrots, respectively. Sprinkle an additional 1/4cup cheese over the toppings and top the pizza with 1 TBSP chopped peanuts.

4. Transfer the pizza to oven; bake until crisp and golden and the cheese is bubbly, 9 to 10 minute. When cooked through, remove pizza from oven.

5. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over the hot cheesy surface.

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Source: California Pizza Kitchen

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: Vintage - A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

Title: Vintage: A Ghost Story
Author: Steve Berman
Genre: YA, horror, LGBT

Publisher: Haworth Positronic Press
Publishing Date: March 1st 2007
Paperback: 164 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand alone

Summary:
In a small New Jersey town a lonely boy walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face youthful dreams and childish fears. With a cast of offbeat friends, antiques, and Ouija boards, Vintage offers readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love.
Review:

As the summary says, this story is about a lonely boy who comes across the ghost of a boy who dies in the 50s. Dealing with the aftermath of his parents rejection after coming out as gay, he sees the ghost as a way to both find love and escape the real world. As their relationship starts to escalate though, he finds that maybe ghost stories are scary for a reason and that his ghost has a lot of issues of its own. Armed with a group of quirky friends and a Ouija board, Vintage is about one boy's struggle for love and all the surprises that inevitably ensue.

Interestingly enough, the main protagonist is never named throughout the story. I didn't even realize this until I started to write this review, but he's only given a last name, Vesely. I guess Berman did this in order to make it possible for readers to identify with the main character, but I found the characters so particular that I don't think this is fully possible. Vesely is not only gay, but he's a goth with a penchant for vintage clothing. He has lots of like and dislikes that made him one of the more fully developed characters I've read in a while. Because of this, I don't think leaving him unnamed was needed. Either way I completely adored Vesely though. He's both idealistic and realistic in ways that really resonated with me. Even though he knows something to be impossible, he can't help but wish for it anyways. He's one of those people who can be surrounded by people and yet feel totally alone and find solace in the strangest places. I don't want to go on and on, but talk about major girl crush. I loved that his being gay was just one part of him rather then who he was.

All of the rest of the characters were interesting as well. Some people may think they were made too quirky, but I think a lot of readers will be able to connect with this lot of strange and interesting people. It's hard to believe how much character Berman was able to give all his characters with less than 200 pages. I've read books twice as long where the main character doesn't even have half as much personalty. The relationships Vesely has with his friends, particularly Trace, was great. More than anything, the characters and their relationships felt authentic in a way that surprised me.

About the ghost story itself, this is the only part of the book I think some people may be disappointed by. If you go into this story looking for horror, then you're probably not going to be too happy. While I think the ghost story part of the book was well enough, I didn't really find anything too scary or horrific. Maybe it's because I felt the whole point of the ghost was to really push Vesely into accepting that love is hard but worth the risk, rather then trying to escape the possibility of rejection, but I didn't really care about the ghost at all. Of course, this was just me. The great thing about this story is the mystery and the romance weren't overblown so it's easy to get lost in both.

I know I've rambled on, but I can take a moment to talk about Second Mike for a second? I haven't been so enamored with a character in quite a while. I wanted to keep him all to myself and the first thing I did when I finished the book was re-read all the passages with him in it. Swoon.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

Anything with Second Mike in it.

Verdict:

Another book that completely surprised me. At less than two hundred pages Vintage is quite a light read that still manages to be touching and sweet.

Rating: 7. Very good

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yay and Nay

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Things I loved about this week:

1. Reconnecting with old friends
2. Playing with new friends
3. Malibu rum
4. Denny's
5. Being surprised by someone I thought I had pegged
6. Harry Potter
7. Buttery popcorn
8. The smell of fireworks
9. Staying up too late

Things I didn't love:

1. Leather car seats
2. Neighbor kids
3. Kill joys
4. 6 hour marinating time I didn't plan for
5. Waking up too early
6. Not taking enough pictures

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: Numbers by Rachel Ward

Title: Numbers
Author: Rachel Ward
Genre: YA, Romance, Thriller

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic Inc.
Publishing Date: February 1st 2010
Hardcover: 325 pages

Stand Alone or series: First book of the Numbers trilogy

Summary:
Whenever Jem meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die.

Burdened with such an awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But while they’re waiting to ride the Eye Ferris wheel, Jem notices that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today’s number. Today’s date. Terrorists are going to attack London. Jem’s world is about to explode!
Review:

I don't think I've ever been more disappointed in a book and I can't even do a proper summary of the story because all I want to write is "blah blah blah, whine, blah blah blah." The last time I felt like straight up tearing the pages out of a book was when I read Angels and Demons, but I think this book even makes my frustration at Dan Brown look like a minor quibble. While the summary made this book sound like it's going be about the question of fate and whether or not we control our own destiny (because why else would it matter that you can see when people are going to die?), it's really about the ineptitude of the British police system. Yes, really.

Let's start with the major issues I had with this book:

1. The writing. Right away I regretted picking this book out of my stack. I get that Jem has had a hard life and that her language is supposed to personify her tough-girl attitude, but it really just turned me off. What was supposed to make the book feel more authentic made me think Ward was just lazy. Jem's whole "fuck off" attitude made me not like her so it was kind of hard to root for her. In fact, the biggest disappointment of this story was that it's told from Jem's perspective and therefor I had little hope she would be hit by a bus and the story could move on without her.

2. The way every adult figure besides one was a caricature used to highlight how little adults understand about teenagers and poverty. I thought I was reading a crappy version of Dangerous Minds for a minute there. We get it, no one can understand what Jem has been through.

3. That Jem and Spider have to go one the run because the police will try to pin a terrorist explosion on them because they're poor and Spider is black. That's right. This is the police ineptitude I was talking about. Apparently, the police make a habit of prosecuting innocent teenagers as terrorists and it's perfectly normal for everyone to know this. Because of this, instead of being questioned by the police and released after no evidence can link them to the crime, Jem and Spider have to go on the run. And when they do so, they become the most wanted people in Britain. Who needs to worry about al-Qaeda when there's suspicious activity from teenagers? But don't worry, an average thug will be able to find them but the police are pretty clueless. And then when they do finally catch up with them, the police will be willing to honor the "sanctuary" of a church by not using the powers invested in them by a warrant and allow Jem to stay safely tucked away. On top of that steaming pile of unbelievable horse shit, the police will also be quick to give into Jem's demands and give her what she wants. Rather than, you know arresting her. Then all will apparently be forgotten and this entire idiotic plot line will just fade into the background. Seriously, anyone watching an episode of Law and Order could do better than this. How anyone, for even a single moment, could buy into this idea is beyond me. If my brain could cry it'd be weeping uncontrollably just thinking about this crap.

4. The fact Jem can see when people are going to die is basically background noise. It really contributes nothing to the story besides giving Ward a reason to make Jem an asshole. Jem is so stupid she also decides to put the person she's trying to save in a dangerous situation because she's so self-centered that everything must be about her and therefore she's the reason people die. Are you thinking wtf? So was I. Don't let yourself think that Jem ever saves anyone or ever does anything with her power (or whatever you want to call it). She doesn't. But we sure do get to hear her bitch and moan about it for three hundred pages.

I could go on, but I think I've made my position on this book pretty clear. The only thing I liked about this book is the fact it features an interracial relationship. Everything else just sucked.

Verdict:

Sometimes I feel bad when I talk about an aspect of a book I didn't like or major issues I have with stories. (A surprising amount of authors must google themselves a lot cause they seem to pretty in-the-know about a lot of reviews.) I disliked this book so much, I can't bring myself to care though. Ward owes me the few hours of my life I spent reading this book.

Rating: 2. One of the worst books I have ever read

Friday, July 22, 2011

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

You can't throw a stone without hitting this recipe on a food blog. I've seen it...um pretty much everywhere. And while that makes me feel silly for posting it myself, there's a reason everyone is making these. Simple but surprisingly flavorful, you won't believe the crunch these taquitos get while baking.

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I didn't change a thing. I plan on making this whenever I have some extra chicken laying around. Don't leave off the salt at the end. It's perfect.

Would I make this again? For sure.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Ingredients:

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1-2 green onions, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, etc. would also be good)
10-12 6-inch flour tortillas
Cooking spray
Kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, spices, cilantro, green onions, chicken and shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly until well combined.

2. Briefly heat the tortillas in the microwave to make them soft enough to roll easily, about 20-30 seconds. Place a tortilla on a work surface. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture down the middle of the tortilla. Roll the tortilla up tightly around the filling. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling, spacing the assembled taquitos evenly on the baking sheet. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. (You may be tempted to skip the sprinkle of salt, but it really adds a nice touch.)

(To freeze before baking, transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and chill the assembled taquitos 30-60 minutes. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. To bake from the freezer, simply add a few additional minutes to the original baking time, until the filling is warmed through.)

3. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Our Best Bites

Ethan 07/11

It seems like I haven't made anything in a while, but I'm actually working on four large paintings and it's zapped my energy. I decided to make this simple picture in order to give myself a bit of a break. I'm pretty happy with it overall.

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Since I decided to spray paint Ethan's name in silver it was kind of hard to photograph, but I like how...shiny it is. I'm not a teenage boy, but I think he'll approve.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Music Thursday


New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Infinity by Inara George & Bryony Atkins:



Damn it Feels Good to Be A Gangsta by Geto Boys:



I know this song shouldn't appeal to me, but it does. *shrugs*

Lowdown by Wire:



Broken by 12 Stones:



Okay this song isn't new to me but I just fell back in love with it.

Shout Me Out by TV on the Radio:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Title: Rosemary and Rue
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: DAW
Publishing Date: September 1st 2009
Paperback: 346 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book one of the October Daye series

Summary:
October "Toby" Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas...

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening's killer.
Review:

October Daye, Toby, has decided she's had enough with Faerie. Not only is she treated like a second class citizen by Faerie because she's a changeling and therefor half human, while working a missing persons case Toby had the unfortunate privilege of being turned into a fish. When she's able to finally break free of the spell, her ex-husband and daughter refuse to see her when she can't explain why she went missing for fourteen years. So Toby done with it all. Content to work as a check out clerk at the local grocery store, Toby spends her days in an apathetic daze just trying to get by. Of course that wouldn't be a very interesting story, and Toby is thrust back into Faerie when Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered. As she struggles to solve the murder and find a new place for herself in Faerie, Toby will have to confront a lot of things, and people, she thought she knew.

I've become pretty bored with urban fantasy over the last few years. It was the first genre I started reading pretty obsessively and it was the first to fall by the wayside. While I now prefer fantasy, every once and a while I come across an urban fantasy book that reminds me what it was the drew me to urban fantasy in the first place. I'm happy to say that Rosemary and Rue is one of those books.

I'm not even entirely sure what it was that won me over about this book either. While I thought it was interested to read about Faerie there's nothing particularly new or surprising about the mythology. What really won me over was the setting and the characters. Taking place in San Francisco, the way McGuire layered the city with Faerie and us regular blokes was interesting. It was also refreshing that Toby was one of the less powerful members of Faerie. Rather than relying on just her magic or knowing some super new powerful ability will manifest itself right when she needs it, Toby has to use other means to get the job done. She gets beat up and misses clues and I really liked that. All of the characters have interesting personalities that made them feel like individuals and I lied the way no one was too evil or too good. This is a problem a lot of books about the fae tend to fall into and I'm glad McGuire avoided it.

Plus, there's Tybalt. I'll just leave it at that.

While the story did have some unevenness with the plot, either no action or non-stop action, the whole host of interesting secondary characters kept my attention till the very end. Considering my general apathy for most urban fantasy books, I'd say that's a job well done.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

You can read an excerpt here.

Verdict:

If you're into urban fantasy then you should definitely check this book out. As soon as I finished this book I raced through the next three. That's got to count for something.

Rating: 7. Very good

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies

These cookies have made the rounds on food blogs already and for good reason. The combination of peanut butter and Snickers is surprisingly good. Maybe it's the salty peanuts, but I thought they complimented each other really well. Another thing I like about this cookie recipe is the subtle peanut butter flavor. Instead of being a true peanut butter cookie, like the Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies with Chocolate Chips, where the cookie is all peanut butter and no flour, this cookie is more like a standard cookie with a little of peanut butter added. I liked this a lot since I'm not a huge peanut butter fan. The flavor was still there, but it wasn't overwhelming. These cookies are also a lot more tender than average peanut peanut cookies. Overall, two thumbs up.

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Even though the recipe calls for the peanut butter Snickers, I used the regular old nougat Snickers. I tried the peanut butter one and I didn't really care for it to be honest. Also, the dough may be hard to keep together but just do the best you can.

Would I make this again? Sure.

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped Snickers Peanut Butter Squared candy bars
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the milk and the vanilla extract and mix again.

4. Add the flour mixture and beat until flour disappears. Stir in the chopped Snickers and chocolate chips.

5. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Gently flatten each cookie ball with the palm of your hand. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until cookies are slightly brown on the edges.

6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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Source: Two Peas and Their Pod

Monday, July 18, 2011

Soaking up the hours that everyone else throws away

I've always been a night person. For as long as I can remember I've stayed up too late and woken up far past what's considered seemly. Of course, I've never really based my life on what is or isn't seemly. What an awful way to be described now that I think about it. I don't know what it is, but around ten or eleven I feel like I should be doing things. Suddenly I feel the urge to start a new project or organize the pile of precariously placed objects I call my house (of course I gallantly resist the latter urge in most cases so fear not dear reader). For me, there's just something magical about the middle of the night. It's like anything is possible and I love when it's so late that time doesn't even matter anymore.

Some late nights are for making news friends and others are for forging new relationships with people you thought you'd always known. Other nights, it seems like memories and bittersweet recollections are on the menu. I both love and hate those nights in particular. As you can probably guess, I'm in a bit of a mood this evening. I heard this song today and it made me think of all the friendships that I regret not taking better care of.



There are definitely a few people who I can't help but feel like I'm waiting for them to come back to me (not to sound egotistical). Part of me resents that hope and the other part keeps on keeping on. I think it's time I reached out to a few people though. How long can you wait for something to happen without making any effort? I've been missing my friends and family in San Diego more than usual lately as well. I think I have too much time to think during the summer's relentless days.

Sorry for being a bit of a downer. It's after three and I think it's time I finally went to bed anyways.

Friday, July 15, 2011

BBQ Chicken Burgers

A lot of people avoid chicken burgers because they think they're dry and not very flavorful. Well, if you're one of those people prepare to be blown away. The ingredient list may seem weird (especially the cornmeal), but these are definitely in my top three favorite burgers. Ever. The combination of flavors is out of this world and nom nom nom. What else can be said?

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There's a recipe for making your own bbq sauce if you follow the link at the bottom, but I just used bottled. I also streamlined the process by browning the burgers on the griddle and tossing them in the oven to finish cooking. Then I just added the extra bbq sauce to the assembled burger. Don't be surprised if the burger mixture looks weird either. It works out perfect though.

BBQ Chicken Burgers

Ingredients:

For the burgers:

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup crumbled cornbread or 1/4 cup cornmeal
1 scallion, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pinch cayenne
2 tsp brown sugar
2/3 cup chopped pulled pork
5 tbsp bbq sauce (homemade or store-bought), divided

For serving:

Grilled red onion slices
Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Additional bbq sauce
Hamburger buns

Directions:

Prepare grill.

1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cornbread, scallion, cilantro, paprika, garlic, mustard, salt, cayenne, brown sugar, pork, and 2 tablespoons of the bbq sauce. Lightly but thoroughly mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of bbq sauce to a small bowl.

2. Form the mixture into 4 equal-sized patties. Brush the grates of the grill with olive oil. Place the burgers and onions on the grill, and cook the burgers 5-6 minutes, then flip. Turn the onions as well. Brush the cooked sides with half the reserved bbq sauce. After 3-4 minutes, flip the burgers again. glazing the other side with the remaining bbq sauce. Place a slice of cheese on each pattie, and lay the buns, cut side down, on the grill. Close the lid and allow the cheese to melt and the buns to toast.

3. Remove all the food from the grill, assembling the burgers as desired. Serve with additional bbq sauce if desired.

IMG_7704

Source: Smells Like Home

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter Inspired Guest Post

FYI: I have a guest post over at Fishnets & Hip Checks. It's all about Harry Potter inspired crafts and food.


You can find it here if you're interested.

New Music Thursday


New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

10,000 Lovers by Ida Maria:



I love Ida Maria. I wish they had this album at the library.

The Fire Song by Company of Thieves:



Heat Wave by Chiddy Bang (Feat. Mac Miller):



Perhaps Vampire is a Bit Strong But... by Arctic Monkeys:



Girls Like You by The Naked and Famous:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lacy Hair How To

I'm in the process of growing my hair out and it's definitely not fun. It's frustrating and annoying. Coupled with the heat, I usually just end up throwing it up in a clip. Then I get more annoyed because I hate wearing my hair the same too often (which is the very reason I'm growing it out). I know, I know. It seems I'm never pleased, but the fact I have so little hair is a constant downer for me. Because of this, I've been particularly interested in simple but creative ways to get out of my hair rut.

This tutorial for a simple up-do using lace by Skunkboy Creatures is just the kind of thing I'm looking for:


You can find all the directions here if you're interested. Personally, I'd probably leave out the second piece of lace (the one that forms the headband-esque thing), but I love how braiding a simple piece of lace into your hair makes this really special. I'm definitely gonna try it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Make Butterbeer

There are countless recipes out there for Butterbeer, but I came across one that seems especially nice. Instead of using a cream soda base and simply adding butterscotch, this recipe looks a little more unique and flavorful.

Working Class Foodies:



Of course this recipe requires a little more effort, but it looks super tasty. Anyone else excited to the last Harry Potter movie? It's like the end of an era or something.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Budget Dinners: Taco Bread Pizzas

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for beans and this is a fantastic way to eat them. Spicy and filling, this dish is fast, easy, cheap, and even vegetarian. While I'm sure some chorizo would be great, I actually prefer these "pizzas" just the way they are. Kind of like an American version of the molletes but with black beans instead of pintos (though re-fried beans would be great), this recipe also reminds me of the taco pizza at California Pizza Kitchen.

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This is really just a loose outline on how to season your beans. As always, make them according to your family's preference. I usually leave out the hot sauce and the salsa and add cilantro. I also like to squirt a little lime at the end as well. I've found soft deli style rolls are easier to eat than baguette but they should be toasted first. To top it all off, I like to mix a little sirachi with sour cream.

Would I make this again? Already a regular in our house.

Taco Bread Pizzas

Ingredients:

1 loaf baguette or semolina bread, day old is fine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped or 1 pickled hot pepper of any kind, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 cup prepared salsa, any variety

Toppings:
2 cups shredded Cheddar, smoked Cheddar, Monterey Jack or pepper Jack
1 heart romaine or 1/2 iceberg head, shredded
1/2 cup green olives with or without pimiento, chopped
1/4 red onion or 2 to 3 scallions, chopped
2 plum or vine tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Split bread lengthwise. Hollow the bread out and cut each half in half across, making 4 boats.

2. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil, 1 turn of the pan, garlic and hot peppers. Drain beans. Add half of the beans then mash the remainder of the beans in the can using a fork. Add mashed beans to the pan and combine with whole beans. Season beans with hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

3. When the spicy beans are hot through, spread them evenly across all of the bread. Top with salsa and liberally sprinkle with cheese, covering bread to all edges. The boats will only be half-full. Melt cheese in the oven until it bubbles and begins to brown.

4. Top Nacho Bread Pizzas with lettuce, olives, onions and tomatoes and serve.

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Source:
Rachael Ray

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones

Title: The Tear Collector
Author: Patrick Jones
Genre:
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: September 1, 2009
Hardcover: 263 pages

Stand Alone or series: I know there will at least be a sequel called Cassandra’s Turn.

Where did I get this book: I was able to pick this book up for $1 at the library book sale.

Summary:
Beautiful and popular Cassandra is always available for anyone in need of a peer counselor at school, a volunteer in the hospital, or a sympathetic ear at church. She is ready to console and comfort those with a multitude of problems, from broken hearts to the death of a family member. But she doesn't do these things to be nice; she does them because her life depends on it. Cassandra has descended from a long line of grief vampires who need tears instead of blood to survive. She is expected to collect tears and produce the next generation for her family's survival, but recently Cassandra has become disillusioned with her life. She has made meaningful friendships, has allowed herself to feel, and, most importantly, has fallen in love.

Fans of urban fantasy should prepare for a new kind of vampire–one that feeds off of tears instead of blood. Descended from an ancient line of creatures that gain their energy from human tears, Cassandra Gray depends on human sorrow to live. Only Cass has grown tired of living this life and wants to live like a human, especially now that she's met someone worth fighting for.
Review:

Cassandra Gray comes from a vary special family. See, Cassandra is a vampire. A special kind of vampire that feeds on tears instead of blood. Forced to feed of other people's pain, Cassandra can never allow herself to get too close to any one person. To make matters worse, as her grandmother gets older and weaker Cassandra must almost help provide the energy they collect from tears to her grandmother. This added strain has Cassandra working overtime to try and reach her family's high expectation. But as Cassandra tries to be everything her family wants her to be, she realizes she's tired of having to keep everyone an arms length away. Even though Cassandra is popular and volunteers in a hospital bursting with people, she's actually very alone. But as Cassandra starts to reach out to the people around her, she learns sometimes there's a high price to pay for getting what you want.

One issue I really had with this book was the use of several different stereotypes. One, not all goths genuinely believe in vampires. This really bothered me because I felt like the entire goth subculture was being distorted and generalized for the sake of easy characterization. That's not to say there isn't a vampyre subculture, but I still think the oversimplification of goths was problematic. (I found a really great post here if you'd like more info.) While Samantha does happen to be a vampire-believing-goth, saying she's like this because all goths are like this was lazy writing. This also leads into my second problem, the way Jones characterized atheism. I'll admit there's the possibility I'm being overly sensitive since I'm an atheist myself, but I really felt like Jones botched the whole thing. I honestly felt like atheism was misrepresented in a pseudo-debate in an attempt to discredit the genuine and complicated reasons people question belief in a god. Instead I felt like Jones used these conversations to speak to me as a reader. And it pissed me off. The characters Catholicism also seemed too heavy handed for me. Considering how heavy handed all the characters were though, this isn't very surprising. The cheerleaders are stuck up and shallow. The jocks are all brawn and no brain. The villain is very very evil. Scott is the "surprising" love interest that's sweet yet shy. Samantha is the wounded goth girl who writes poetry and hurts herself. It's was all too...expected. There was nothing distinctive about any of the characters.

This story was also woefully short on details. We're told Cassandra's family is some kind of succubus or vampire that feeds on human emotions like fear and sadness, but that's about it. We don't know what extent these emotions can be. Cassandra mentions she wants to feed on love not tears, but I wasn't sure what she meant. Was she being serious? If so, did Jones not think of the horror such a thing would cause? Is Cassandra immortal? How does doing something inhumane make a person human? There simply wasn't enough details for me. The reader is left with zero understanding of the supernatural elements of the story and instead is bombarded with random high school gossip and drama. I know more about one of the cheerleaders facebook page then I do about Cassandra's powers. Honestly, compared to the Dresden Files, where the White Court vampires (similar to Cassandra in this story) are fleshed out and considered from several angles, the supernatural part of this story was seriously lacking.

Since this story is light on the details and heavy on the stereotypes, it would take a really strong protagonist to make the story still work. And that's where this book falls short. While the begging of the story was interesting, it automatically distanced me emotionally from Cassandra. Her apathy caused my indifference and yet the story relies on the readers connection with her. Instead of wanting Cassandra to get a chance at a normal life, all her introspection just bored me. Her whining about the unfairness of it all was just that, whining. I genuinely didn't care what happened to her. And because of that, I wasn't able to feel her sacrifices were genuine sacrifices or her fears were worth being worried about. I just felt really meh about it all. Even more boring was the love story. Jeez, when will two dimensional instant attraction just die already? There's a part in the book when Cassandra thinks "we have so many connection" because Scott has read A Tale of Two Cities. Yeah, cause that's a totally obscure book that no one has ever heard about. That's be like me getting all emotional over the fact Ryan also read Huckleberry Finn. It's called eleventh grade English. Soul mates it does not make. Also, the fact Cassandra had to tell us they had connections means they didn't actually have any connections. Except for their simplistic views of theology of course. I also love the totally ridiculous relationship drama that was thrown in just to move things along.

At the end of the day this book is more coming-of-age-story than urban fantasy and it just didn't work for me since I couldn't feel Cassandra's journey. The dangling plot thread with Alexei, Cassandra's evil cousin, also really bothered me. the best thing about this story are the first and last lines.

Verdict:

I know I ranted about this book, but I did really enjoy Jones' writing. It had a nice feel to it in a way I can't easily describe. I also thought the idea was interesting, even if the execution fell short. This is the type of book I can see young readers using to test urban-fantasy waters. At the same time, I wonder why young readers need such tepid stories. Most teens have already experienced their own horror in the world.

Rating: Between a 4 and a 5

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Music Thursday


New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Mexican Mavis by Boy & Bear:



Dangerous and Sweet by Lenka:



Kind of reminds me of Ellie Goulding actually.

Survival Skills by KRS-One and Buckshot:



Why So Looking Back by The Most Serene Republic:



Look At Me Now cover by KarminMusic:



I can't stop watching this girl.

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday by K. Ryan:



I'm very much love or hate with music covers, but this one definitely falls into the love category. While the original will always be magical, there is something really lovely about this version. I listened to it like five times in a row the first time I heard it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce

This is another of those perfect weeknight dinners just waiting to be enjoyed. While coconut may sound like a weird ingredient to pair with chicken, but if you're anything like me you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised. It must be the same reason coconut shrimp is so good, but the coconut adds a nice sweetness to the chicken. Even Ryan liked it and he's not a big fan of coconut. The chicken was flavorful and crunchy and delicious. The apricot sauce was also surprisingly pleasant. I wasn't sure how the dijon would pair with the preserves, but the mustard's bite took the edge off the sweetness making the sauce a nice accompaniment. Just imagine how much kids would enjoy some chicken fingers like this.

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I did switch this recipe up just a bit. instead of mixing the coconut with flour I mixed it with panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch (I actually did this in the food processor to make it well combined). I also dredged the chicken in flour before adding it to the egg. Then I pan fried the chicken in a little oil until brown on both sides and tossed the breasts into the oven just to finish cooking through. Baking is healthier, but it was delicious.

Would I make this again? Oh yeah.

Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce

Ingredients:

1 egg
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. Lightly beat the egg in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix the coconut, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.

2. Working with one chicken breast at a time, dip the chicken in the bowl with the beaten egg and then coat with the coconut mixture. Place on the baking sheet. Once all chicken breasts are coated and on the baking sheet, evenly drizzle with the melted butter.

3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping once halfway.

4. To prepare the apricot sauce, mix the apricot preserves and the Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Freezer Friendly: After baking the chicken, let cool completely then freeze in a freezer bag for up to 1 month. To reheat, bake in a preheated oven at 400˚F for 20 minutes.

Source: Pennies on a Platter

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Title: Across the Universe
Author: Beth Revis
Genre: YA, science fiction, dystopia

Publisher: Razorbill
Publishing Date: January 11th 2011
Hardcover; 398 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book 1 in planned trilogy

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Review:

As the planet has been overrun with corporate greed, a small group of highly trained individuals have decided to travel to a new planet with hopes of finding more resources and a new place to colonize. Unfortunately, the planet is 300 years away and the passengers must be cryogenically frozen in order to survive the trip. Both of Amy's parents are part of this new group of explorers and Amy has to come to terms with leaving everyone she loves behind. Torn between leaving her friends and loved ones or seeing the new world with her parents, Amy ultimately decides to join the future colonists on the spaceship Godspeed. As she dreams never ending dreams, Amy is suddenly awoken after her cryochamber has been damaged drowning in her own cryo-liquid. Luckily a strange boy named Elder, the future leader of the ship, is there to save her and thus begins a strange new adventure.

As you might guess, I've left a lot of the plot out. Godspeed is crewed by group of people charged with ensuring the ship runs properly and makes it to the planet dubbed 'Centauri-Earth.' Since the trip will take many generations, the crew is surprisingly large and the crew has had to make a lot of changes in order to ensure their survival. Even though the summary makes this story sound like a murder mystery in space, Across the Universe felt more like a criticism of communism to be honest. Understanding why the people crewing the ship live the way they do is one the biggest part of the book and I don't want to give too much away.

Ultimately my biggest problem with this story is the flatness of it I guess. I never felt...anything really. I never felt like there was any immediacy to the story. Even though Revis makes it abundantly clear that Amy is in danger, I never genuinely felt that fear because I knew that everything would work out okay. The thing that got to me the most was when Amy was attacked, but this is exactly the type of cheap ploy that makes me avoid books with rape (though just to be clear Amy wasn't raped). It's basically laziness on the author's part. Beyond that though, I never really cared about Amy or Elder. Whether that's just me or the book is up for debate, but how can I love a book when I feel indifference? The answer is I can't.

I also wasn't shocked or horrified by any of the actions on the ship. Yes, the idea of giving people "mating seasons" to procreate was...uncomfortable, but I wasn't really appalled by anything. Maybe I've read too many dystopias, but this book just lacked something. This is why I say there's a flatness about this story. The romance aspect was also strange. Amy just woke up from being asleep for 250 years (and yet her muscles work perfectly?). When she was frozen she was in love with her boyfriend and yet we're supposed to believe she changes her mind in a matter of days? This seemed kind of inappropriate to me. I just couldn't understand what brought these two people together beyond circumstance. And I hate when books use circumstance solely as the basis for romance.

I do think this is a great book to get more people into science fiction though. Since the themes are lighter then a lot of other dystopias and the science fiction aspect isn't in the forefront, I think this novel may make people reconsider some preconceived notions they have about scifi. And that cover is gorgeous (though you can read about some controversy surrounding the original cover here).

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

You can read the first chapter here (pdf).

Verdict:

While I did enjoy the writing, there just wasn't enough meat in this story for me. The plot twists were too obvious and most of the characters two dimensional. If that wasn't enough the ending was completely unsatisfying. I did like how Elder is seen as being unsure of his skills as a leader, but that's pretty much the only true character depth either were given. I also took issue with some of the science in the book.

Rating: 5. Blah – essentially neutral

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth of July everyone! Hope your day is spent with loved ones and plenty of bbq.

The Fourth has always been one of my favorite holidays. Not because I'm overly patriotic or anything, but because it's one of the more laid back celebrations. I like being able to just hang out without all the added pressure some of the other holidays seem to have. Plus I love bbq and blowing things up. The Fourth of July combines both of these things in the perfect package.

In celebration of the holiday I decided to make a flag cake after seeing this amazing cake by Glorious Treats. Apparently it was originally from 17 and Baking, but Glory's cake blew me away. Trying to recreate it wasn't as easy as I expected though. My cakes kept falling apart and my leveling skills leave much to be desired. I also had a hard time getting the cake frosted properly. Maybe I should just stick to cupcakes and less fussy deserts from now on.

Here's my best effort:

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haha the zoom hides a lot of the mess but you can see by the right side of the picture how everything is falling apart. Sad face. The only upside is I found a great new frosting. If you'd like to give it a try though, just follow the link for great directions.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

BBQ and Party Food Ideas

Here are some food ideas for your next bbq or summer bash. I've shared over a hundred recipes on Sunshine and Bones and these are some of my favorites. I've made most of these recipes dozens of times and they've become real staples in my kitchen. If you're planning a get together then believe me, none of these recipes will steer you wrong.

Classic Deviled Eggs (with relish):

Classic Deviled Eggs (with relish)

These are classic for a reason. I don't know why, but there's just something about a deviled egg that makes everyone happy. I love serving them not only because they're delicious, but also because the eggs can easily be boiled the day before. Then you just have to assemble on the day of the bbq.

Twice Baked Potatoes:

Twice Baked Potatoes

These potatoes are one of the dishes I make most often for company and they never disappoint (and are always gone by the end of the night). What's not to love about potato, cheese, and bacon? A packet of ranch dressing makes all the difference in this recipe.

Buffalo Chicken Dip:

Buffalo Chicken Dip

This dip is by far the group favorite. I get asked to make it quite often and I've never had anyone not like it.

7 Layer Bean Dip:

7 Layer Bean Dip

Another classic, this is probably my favorite dip. Whenever I make it, Ryan and I usually end up hovering over the dish for an embarrassing amount of time. It may not be the prettiest dip the world has seen, but people have been making it for decades with good reason. This is also a good dish to make if you'd like something meatless to serve.

Best Ever Potato Salad:

Best Ever Potato Salad

This picture does not do this potato salad justice. For me, this recipe is one of those golden recipes where you feel like you'll never make the dish any other way. Seriously, this potato salad is majorly yummy.

Corn with Bacon and Scallions:

Corn with Bacon and Scallions

This is the perfect way to get away from all the potatoes and have something light but flavorful to accompany your meal. I know it seems kind of silly to rave about a dish of corn, but this side dish is one of the tastiest corn dishes I've ever had. I cannot express enough love for this dish.

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes:

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes

A great alternative to other creamy pasta dishes and another solid meat free recipe, this is one of those perfect recipes that is filling, simple, and quick. Admittedly, it may be a bit heavy with all the cream.

Panzanella:

Panzanella

If you like fresh vegetables you will not be disappointed by this recipe since it's basically just a fresh veggie salad with bread. Where the last dish may seem heavy, this one is the exact opposite. Fresh and bright with a nice zing from the vinaigrette, this is by far my most favorite salad. Ever.

Grilled Barbecued Chicken Kebabs:

Grilled Barbecued Chicken Kebabs

I know I just posted this recipe, but I am telling you this chicken is to die for. Make it for yourself and sigh with pleasure. Make it for your friends and reap their praise. There's just no other chicken recipe that compares in my humble opinion.

Smokin’ Chicken Burger:

Smokin’ Chicken Burger

The perfect burger for people who don't like beef. Mushrooms keep it moist and the red sauce makes this burger a little more fancy than the standard.

Ribs with Big Daddy Rub:

Ribs with Big Daddy Rub

Aw, the recipe that made me fall in love with ribs. Flavorful and meaty, these ribs had us swooning in their sweet but spicy flavor. The rub in this recipe is seriously amazing. We use it on everything now it seems (drumsticks are particularly good).

Hawaiian Burger with Caramelized Pineapple and Crisp Bacon:

Hawaiian Burger with Caramelized Pineapple and Crisp Bacon

You should all know I'm not much of a beef fan by now (chicken forever!), but this is my kind of burger. Chocked full of flavor with a little sweet and a little spicy, this is the kind of burger that makes you wish you were on a beach somewhere drinking some kind of colorful drink that comes with a mini-umbrella.

Oven Hot Dogs:

Oven Hot Dogs

After some consideration, I've decided to include this recipe for the benefit of anyone having a lot of kids at their bbq. Though this is cooked in the oven, it's so easy to throw together and I know pickier eaters will love it.

Chocolate Sheet Cake:

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Almost like a fudgy brownie, this cake is great for chocolate lovers and one cake goes a long way. Tastes even better the next day so it's the perfect do-ahead.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

One of the treats I'm most requested to make, these bars are like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in cookie form. This recipe also yields a lot of servings and is easy to whip together.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free E-book ‘Survivors’ by Sophie Littlefield

Just the other day I raved about Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield. It is by far one of my favorite zombies books (along with Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, and Zombies vs. Unicorns).Well luckily for us, Littlefield is offering a free ebook novella entitled Survivors.
DOING RIGHT ISN'T EASY IN A WORLD GONE SO WRONG

Cass Dollar outlasted the fall of civilization. But surviving Aftertime requires the kind of toughness that can conquer the violent landscape of California and still retain its humanity.

When a young boy and his dying grandmother are brought to the Box, the survivalist community where Cass takes shelter, she realizes that without her help he won't be long for this unforgiving new world. But while the Box is a haven from the roaming marauders—and the flesh-hungry Beaters—it forbids children within its confines. The boy will be turned out to fend for himself. All that stands between him and the brutal wilderness is Cass's protective instincts, and the stubborn resolve that's gotten her this far Aftertime.
If you're interested you can dowload your own free copy here (epub). The thing I love about free novellas is how they not only give fans something to hold them off until the next book, but it's also a great place for people to check out the author and see if they're interested in the story. This is particularly helpful with series books in my opinion.

So yeah, check it out!

How to Make a B-Grade Zombie Film

Looks easy enough!