Monday, November 26, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Pumpkin Granola

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Crockpot Monday: Pumpkin Granola
I love pumpkin spice flavored anything. I love granola. Of course if you combine those two things, I'm in love! This is so good mixed into yogurt! I need to make a new batch very, very soon.

Pumpkin Granola:

Ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 to 3/4 cup honey (start with the smaller amount)
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup dried cranberries/raisins or mixture (add last hour)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Stir everything but the dried fruit in. The honey will be gloppy, just stir the best you can. Cover and cook in a vented crockpot (prop lid open with chopstick or wooden spoon) on high for 4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Add dried fruit in the last 30-minutes to an hour.

Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in either the fridge or the freezer.


There are so many ways to use this...sprinkled on ice cream, yogurt, by itself....Let me know your favorite way!





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Monday, November 19, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole

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Crockpot Monday: Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole
I love breakfast. I think there are times when I would eat it 3x a day and be quite happy doing so. This recipe is one that makes for a great brunch treat. With the holidays upon us, consider using your crockpot to handle breakfasts or other things so that you can focus on your family and friends as much as possible. After all, the food at the holidays is just a bonus and not the prize.

Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole:

Ingredients:
1 dozen eggs
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 pound sliced portabella mushrooms (or other "fancy" mushroom)
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 block feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Sauté the mushrooms and bell pepper in a frying pan on the stove in a bit of olive oil or butter until they are wilted and tender. Spray the inside of your crock with cooking spray, and add the cooked mushrooms, bell pepper, and the mushroom juice (left from cooking your mushrooms).

Crumble in the entire block of feta cheese.

In a large bowl, crack all 12 eggs, and mix with a fork. Add the pepper to the eggs and mix.

Pour the egg on top of the feta and veggies.

Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours







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Monday, November 12, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Breakfast Risotto

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Crockpot Breakfast Risotto
Every time I watch a cooking show and they make risotto, I go, "oooooh...." because it always looks amazing! Do you have one of those food items that always makes you drool?

Breakfast Risotto:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
3 small apples
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups of liquid – You can combine juice and milk for this or just use milk.

Directions:

Turn your crockpot to high and add the butter so it can start melting. Wash and cut up your apples. Add the rice to the butter, and stir it around to coat it nicely. If the butter isn't completely melted, don't worry.

Add the apples, and spices. Stir in the juice/milk.

Cover and cook on high for 3-5 hours, or on low for 6 or so.


With the holidays coming, I keep thinking that this would be a perfect set it and forget it breakfast.  If you try it, let me know! I've been tempted to try adding raisins the next time that I make it.





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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wordsmith Wednesday: On Rewriting Introductions

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Welcome back to Wordsmith Wednesday! This week, we're lucky enough to have Leah McNaughton Lederman joining us to share with us about rewriting introductions. I don't want to keep you from her so let's jump right in!

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That’s just it. You’re going to have to do it.
Every now and again, like the mythical “perfect title,” you roll out a first paragraph to half page that makes the whole piece of writing. Like, it doesn’t matter where you go from there because your beginning was so marvelous.
But that’s like waiting to catch Sasquatch with a butterfly net.  (Not gonna happen.)
More than likely, your introduction was you getting to know your piece. Feeling out the character’s voice, getting the tone for the work. Shaking hands.
How can you introduce a piece of writing you haven’t met yet?
Some of you may have outlined and completed character sketches, etc. (I’m a pantser), but even if you have prepared for this piece of writing for a year, it’s like you’ve been online dating. There’s no substitute for meeting face to face, which is what you’re doing when you set pen to paper, keyboard to screen.
The first few paragraphs are the two of you saying hello, exchanging awkward smiles and rehearsed-in-the-mirror quips. You’re not finishing each other’s sentences yet.
You’ll get there. Plunge through and get into the rhythm. Feel that satisfaction when you enter the last period.
Fin.
Lean back and enjoy it.
And know that one of your first tasks when it comes to revision is rewriting the introduction.
There are lists out there of things “not to do” in your introduction. Like any such set of rules, most of them can be thrown out the window. As long as you do something well, the rules don’t matter.
Starting with “riveting” dialogue. The main character is a female and she’s running late (and probably dropping things, since us girls are so clumsy). There’s a car crash (with gratuitous sound effect). You have a page long inner monologue summarizing the character’s childhood.
Cliches exist, yo. And they hurt your writing.
How?
By making me not want to read your writing. Because I don’t care about your character or find the story interesting.
I went to the Indiana writer’s conference back in February (https://indianawritingworkshop.com/) and participated in a “Chapter One Critique Fest.”
Here’s the deal—you submit a copy of your first chapter (without your name on it) and a moderator reads it out loud to a panel of three agents. The agents pretend they’re reading from their “slush pile” raise their hand at the point when they would stop reading and reject. The modersator would continue reading until all three agents raised their hands, then each of them would explain why they stopped.
Their reasons?
A clumsy girl running late.
Obnoxious dialogue.
Car crash.
Being a prologue and not a first chapter (lots of agents hate prologues).
Death of a character (we don’t know them well enough to care, so don’t force us to care).
Inner monologuing.
Mine was in there, too. The introduction to my cousin’s memoir that I’d worked on for over a year. The first thing I wrote down “officially” as part of the book and man, I thought it was gold.

We always had bicycles growing up, my Dad made sure of it. His favorite bikes were Schwinn, of course, and when I was five, right around the time my parents got divorced, I got the green Stingray. Banana seat, the whole deal.
This was the real thing, and I rode it backwards and forwards, hands in the air, uphill and downhill all through the neighborhood for years. I rode it down the hill leading to the lake, taking my hands off the handlebars and feeling the breeze against my skin. It never got old.
Man, I loved that bike.
I thought about it often well into my adulthood; it was a happy childhood memory. And, well, now I think about it knowing that I’ll never ride a bike again. There’s a shadow on my outlook, sure, but it’s still a happy memory, and nothing can change that or take that away from me.
I had a badass, green, Stingray Schwinn. And I conquered the world with it, one Michigan hill at a time. 

I was relieved to find that at least the agents’ hands didn’t shoot into the air right away. Two of them held on nearly halfway through until the reading was scrapped. In discussion, they noted that while they enjoyed the writing and the pace, it didn’t lead them anywhere, and there was nothing tangible in the text, nothing to grab them and pull them into the story—that’s just it: This doesn’t tell you that the story is about a quadruple amputee, and here she is reminiscing about her beloved childhood bike. 

There was no story in my introduction.

And that’s the version of the opening I’d already sent to a dozen agents without a single reply, though in face-to-face pitch meetings I’d received very positive responses. The story was good; the introduction, or opening, was not. I rewrote it, though it was like tweezing my upper lip (a process I don’t practice and certainly don’t recommend), and that’s when I started hearing back from agents.
Sitting in on that exercise changed my writing life. It changed how I read and write introductions by reaffirming what my graduate professor once told the class, regarding the introductions to our papers—when you’ve finished the paper, go back and revise the introduction. It matches the paper you intended to write, not the one that actually came out.




Leah McNaughton Lederman is an author and freelance editor in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband, three children, three cats, and dog. She spends her free time working on memoir snippets and short stories, some of which are published. 

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Yogurt

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Have you ever made your own yogurt? Every so often I get this itch to experiment with something new. Sometimes that's a good thing...sometimes... Well, life should be a bit of an adventure, right?

Yogurt:

Ingredients:
8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk
1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt
frozen/fresh fruit for flavoring
thick bath towel
crockpot

Directions:

This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a day when you’ll be home to keep an eye on it.

Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2.5 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened. Blend in batches with your favorite fruit. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form. They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

Chill in a plastic container in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup (unflavored) as a starter to make a new batch and next time you won’t need to purchase a live culture.


If you try this, let me know what you thought!




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Friday, November 2, 2018

Book Review: The Laird of Duncairn

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The Laird of Duncairn by Craig Comer
The year is 1882 Scotland, and the auld alliance betwixt king and fey has long been forgotten. Men of science, backed by barons of industry, push the boundaries of technology. When Sir Walter Conrad discovers a new energy source, one that could topple nations and revolutionize society, the race to dominate its ownership begins. But the excavation and use of this energy source will have dire consequences for both humans and fey. For an ancient enemy stirs, awakened by Sir Walter's discovery.

Outcast half-fey Effie of Glen Coe is the Empire's only hope at averting the oncoming disaster. Effie finds herself embroiled in the conflict, investigating the eldritch evil spreading throughout the Highlands. As she struggles against the greed of mighty lords and to escape the clutches of the queen's minions, her comfortable world is shattered. Racing to thwart the growing menace, she realizes the only thing that can save them all is a truce no one wants.

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I feel like it's been quite a while since I read a fantasy novel so between that urge and the fact that this one was Gaelic in nature, I couldn't resist picking it up.

The Good:

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and the characters that I met along the way as I read it. This book isn't listed as steampunk but it definitely has those elements in it and I think that they added to what was already happening. I appreciated how the author worked the characters backstories in without it feeling intrusive or distracting from the overall plot.

The Bad:

I'm afraid that this book very much dragged at places and that the pacing felt off more than once. There is also at least one character that was introduced and I won't spoil what happens with him, but, in the end, he felt like filler and I found myself incredibly disappointed that we didn't see more of him. I think he could have been a great way to introduce more of the lore into the story.

The Summary:

Overall, I would say that this was a good first book to a series. I'm hoping that the author got his fidgets out and that book 2 will be even better. I enjoyed the lore and I'm hoping that there's more of that to come. If you enjoy steampunk, historical fantasy, or any mix of those two, give this one a shot. Just be warned that it's quite long and won't be a one evening read.






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Pancakes and Corpses

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Book Review - Pancakes and Corpses - Agatha Frost
Anyone else hungry?
Soon to be divorced Julia South never expected to be caught up in solving a murder, until she discovered the body of her cafe's most awkward customer. With a new smug Detective Inspector in town who underestimates her every move, Julia makes it her mission to discover the real murderer, before her village friends are dragged into the frame, and more bodies are discovered.


A light, cozy mystery read with a cat loving and cafe owning female amateur sleuth, in a small village setting with quirky characters. No cliffhanger, swearing, gore or graphic scenes.

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Sometimes you just need a no pressure, cozy book to curl up with on a rainy day and I found mine in Pancakes and Corpses.

The Good:

While this book takes place in England, I think that anyone from a small town can related to the characters and situations within this book. I enjoyed the uniqueness of each character and how the author portrays each of their individual personalities. The story moved at a quick pace and dropped just enough clues that the ending wasn't shocking, but wasn't predicted in chapter three.

The Bad:

I don't know why but I really dislike the name Barker Brown. It just rubs me the wrong way. Other than that, my other negatives are really minor. I spotted a few misspelled/incorrect words but they weren't enough to pull me out of the story. I think it would also be really nice if the author included a recipe or two at the back of the book. After all, the main character is a baker and from what I've seen, all of the books in this series has something to do with food.

The Summary:

A perfect rainy day read. The pace is quick but nothing feels glossed over. The romance aspect felt a bit obvious, but there's nothing wrong with that! I'm looking forward to picking up more books in this series and learning more about the characters. 






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