Recipe Review: Sweet Cornbread

IMG_0520I have loved this cornbread since the first time I had it, years ago. Honestly, you could eat it as a dessert (I do)–it’s just that yummy! I have never doctored the recipe (which is rare for me) because you don’t need to. And I owe it all to my friend Denise–who I think owes it to her sister–thanks! Enjoy! (Oh, and it goes perfectly with the fiesta chicken…)

Ingredients:

  • 3c Bisquick
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 c butter, melted, then cooled
  • 1 1/2 c milk

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a 9×13 pan
  2. Bale at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes

Book Review: Tangled

TANGLED-NEW-659x1024Ever read a book that really doesn’t need a sequel? That would be this one.

Tangled by Emma Chase won a Goodreads award and I was looking for something new, so I thought it was a good choice. Told from a male perspective, though written by a woman, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Let’s dive in.

In a Nutshell
Drew is a top-notch investment banker at a privately owned firm, where his father is one of the founders, and Kate is a brilliant, yet new, member of the company’s team. Drew and Kate first meet at a club on the eve of Kate starting at the firm–unbeknownst to Drew–and do the flirty thing. Once Kate’s first day rolls around and subsequently Drew’s dad asks Kate and Drew to compete for a new opportunity, the gloves come off.

Yes, there’s still the sexual tension between the two of them, but aside from being co-workers and office rivals, Kate’s also engaged–a complication to their obvious attraction. There’s also the fact that Drew thinks, and quite often proves, that he’s God’s gift to women. His arrogance knows no bounds and Kate is less than impressed with his attitude.

More obstacles arise with Drew and Kate coming together–her engagement being the least of them. Drew proves to have some chivalrous moments, but his ego gets the best of him and jeopardizes everything.

Tara’s Take
I’m not sure why I thought I wouldn’t like this book, it was actually pretty funny. The situations and dialogue were entertaining. We may never know if Emma Chase truly captured the male point of view, but it seems pretty plausible to me. Kudos to her!

This is the perfect light-hearted summer read, ideal for the beach. It’s just fun. There are some pretty steamy scenes and again, humor is its backbone.

The only downside, if it can truly be called that, is that there are 3 more books after this one. This could easily be a standalone book and personally, I’m treating it as such. I didn’t see a need for there to be more artificially created angst going forward just to expand the storyline. So while I recommend giving this book a try, I can’t speak to the others. Happy reading!

Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Fiesta Chicken

IMG_0517Crock-pot meals usually scream winter to me. I’m rethinking that. I enjoyed this dish in its pure form, but I’ve read it can be put on top of nachos, in a taco, or even a burrito. Enjoy!

From the Cookies and Cups website

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, fat trimmed
  • 2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained (I used 1 (28oz.) can)
  • 2 (10 oz) cans corn, drained (I couldn’t find 10oz. cans, so I used 2 (15oz) cans)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning mix

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8 hours.
  3. Chicken will be very tender when ready.
  4. Shred chicken with a fork and stir to combine.
  5. Serve alone or over rice, topped with cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

IMG_0518

Book Review: The Will

the willle sigh… My 2nd less than stellar review, The Will. This one saddens me because the book is by one of my most favorite romance authors–Kristen Ashley. Here goes.

In a Nutshell
Josie is an idiot and Jake is an alpha male who sometimes speaks in complete sentences. They fall in love, have drama, and live happily ever after. That about sums it up.

Tara’s Take
Honestly, I hate to be so harsh, but I really struggled reading this book. I actually took copious notes on how much I disliked it–primarily because of the heroine. Let me explain:

Josie is a big fan of hip hop music and is close personal friends with one of the rap game’s most prominent stars. But Josie knows NO slang and has to have everything explained to her. (Because hip hop never uses slang.)

She speaks like a robot who’s learning the English language. Instead of saying, I need to go to the mall and get some clothes for gardening…She says things like, “…I needed to go to the mall in order to acquire clothing that would be more suitable to tasks such as these.” Seriously, no one speaks like that! And it’s that way through the entire book! Even her thoughts were ‘proper.’ I don’t know who or what she was supposed to be channeling in her speech.

She’s refined, cultured, and traveled the world–but yet, she behaves like she has no common sense. The contradictions were all over the place and impossible to ignore.

Take for instance when she was sitting in restaurant. She could tell simply by the way a man was walking towards her that he was going to hit on her. Yet, she spent weeks holding hangs, cuddling, spending almost every waking hour with Jake (the hero) and had no idea he was interested in her romantically. WT*?!?!?

Again, because this is one of my most fave authors–I’ll stop right there. Suffice to say, I can’t recommend this book. BUT–here’s the thing, I am so committed to this author, I will read the next book in the series when it comes out. I just know she can do better!

 

Book Review: The King

the kingAs many know, The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is the only paranormal series that I read and I LOVE it. I waited, anxiously, for the most recent installment to come out–The King–and I was not disappointed!!!

In a Nutshell
There were several story arcs in this book, but not nearly as many as books past. The primary focus is on Wrath–the king of the race and last pure vampire–trying to have a baby with his half human wife, Beth. Between the assassination attempts on Wrath’s life and his service on the throne being brought into question, repeatedly, this is one more life changing decision–should it come to fruition. The angst, however, makes for a good read.

Speaking of the assassination attempts–the last one was spear-headed by Xcor, leader of The Band of Bastards. His relationship with a very pregnant Layla, continues to bud. But there are new complications in their already challenging situation.

One of the story arcs I’m really looking forward to seeing continue is that of Assail and Sola. She is a small time thief and he’s a big-time drug dealer. Their feelings were explored in the last book, but circumstances beyond their control brought them to the forefront. But is it destined to become an unrequited love? And is his drug dealing within the vampire race really prudent?

Throw in Trez’s responsibilities to the Shadow race along with his infatuation with Selena; a revelation regarding his brother iAm; and that will about round out the book.

Tara’s Take
The King is without a doubt one of my favorites in the series. It’s also the 2nd book I’ve given 5 stars to on my GoodReads account. The author, J.R. Ward, was said to be aware that the first book she wrote that was focused on Wrath, Dark Lover–also the first in the series–was not as strong as some of the other books. This one is stronger by leaps and bounds and definitely delivers. Wrath has endured much over the prior 11 books, so it was nice to see his complex personality shine and take center stage.

Previously, some of J.R. Ward’s book had so many story arcs going on it was hard to keep up and remember what was happening from chapter to chapter. With fewer plot-lines to follow and the clear evolution of Ward’s writing, The King delivers on many fronts. I simply can’t say enough good things about this book. The stories, the character development… I really hate that it’s all over for 2014 and I have to wait a year for the next book. Ugh!!!

Book Review: Consequences

For a while now, I have refrained from posting bad reviews. With the exception of my review  for Poughkeepsie–and even that book I found good in; if I don’t have anything good to say about a book–I just don’t say anything at all (i.e. no review is written). I’ve been encouraged by quite a few people to break that trend and that starts, today.

I disliked this book so intensely, I couldn’t stay silent. But before I dive in, let me first say: I have a tremendous amount of respect for writers–fiction in particular. It truly takes a gifted person to ‘create’ a character. I’ve said many times that my respect and personal enthusiasm for independent authors is off the charts. Ok, I had to get that off my chest. Now, let’s dive in.

ConsequencesIn a Nutshell
Consequences, by Aleatha Romig is a dramatic love story that’s not good–ok, the story is just bad. Claire, is a meteorologist working as a bartender in Atlanta during the recession. (You know, the current recession that we’re repeatedly told is over–that one.) Anthony, is a controlling, domineering, billionaire psychopath.

Anthony abducts Claire and whisks her away to Iowa. Yeah, Iowa. Claire is originally from Indiana so she easily adapts to the change in weather and scenery. While Claire’s ‘prison’ is a gorgeous mansion, it’s still indeed a prison. She suffers from repeated physical and mental abuse at the hands of Anthony–the billionaire who has a staff of many who love him–even though he’s holding a woman hostage in said mansion and they see the clear signs of said abuse. This goes on, blah, blah, blah…and then the end has a twist to get you to buy the next book. Yes, there are actually 2 more in this series. But this blogger won’t be reading them.

Tara’s Take
I don’t even know where to begin–though you got the gist from above. The storyline of this book is just ridiculous. It was pitched as ‘dark’ and while the subject matter is such–without being written graphically–it’s also beyond unrealistic. I read an awful lot of fiction–some paranormal–so I’m more than happy to suspend reality, but this was on a whole new level.

Claire is repeatedly abused and constantly trying to escape, yet when given the opportunity to go back to the happy life she was living pre-abduction, she CHOOSES to stay with her captor. The man who beats, rapes, humiliates, and abuses her–repeatedly. I think the author was going for a Stockholm Syndrome diagnosis–but I don’t buy it. Anthony has no redeeming qualities–oh wait, he’s philanthropic–seriously, that’s a tax write-off, don’t be fooled.

As I stated above, I have honestly tried to stay away from writing bad reviews because I don’t want to put that level of criticism in written form. This book was just so bad. Since I obviously couldn’t find anything, and I mean–anything, positive to say about this book I will say–kudos to the author for publishing a book, several in fact. Ok…that’s as good as it gets for me.

Note: I am fully aware that there are, unfortunately, women who are and stay in abusive relationships. Women who believe they deserve the unkind treatment that they endure day-after-day, who feel they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to and that is not only sad but frightening. No one deserves to be mistreated. In no way do I want to seem insensitive to the women who are in dangerous and abusive relationships. For those women, I pray, and I hope they will get help.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) : The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Recipe Roundup: Cheesy Grits Casserole

cheesey grits casseroleRemember the grits of old, or even of now I guess? When we had grits they had milk and sugar and were everything sweet and yummy.  I may have to make that version soon now that I think about it. But I digress… This recipe is much more savory and it involves one of my all-time favorite ‘food groups,’ cheese (don’t judge me).

Originally, I had seen a similar recipe from one of my most beloved cooking shows/celebrity chefs Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. But then I found this one. I heated up a square a day for breakfast during the week and was ready to rumble. Enjoy!

Original Recipe from Food.com

Ingredients:
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1 (16 ounce) package sharp cheddar cheese*
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Directions:
1. Heat water and salt to boiling.
2. Gradually add grits and return to boiling.
3. Reduce heat.
4. Simmer uncovered, stirring for 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and allow to cool, slightly.
6. Add cheese, butter and eggs, mix well to ensure all of the grits are incorporated.
7. Bake at 350 degrees until a light golden brown, about 50 minutes.

(Tara’s Tips: *It goes without saying, NO pre-shredded cheese was used in the making of this recipe. I shredded two 8oz.-blocks of cheddar cheese.)

Book Review: Rare and Precious Things

rareandpreciousWhere is MY Ethan Blackstone?!?!? I had to get that out.

Initially, I thought this book was going to be nothing but sex–and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I just knew Raine Miller would provide so much more, and she didn’t disappoint. What an incredibly lovely story. There were some stressful moments, I won’t lie. But overall, it was so refreshing to read about the deep-seated love two people have for each other, without a lot of drama thrown in just to beef up the plot.

In a nutshell:
Rare and Precious Things is the conclusion to the Blackstone series. (Though I read Miller’s acknowledgements and we could very well see The Blackstone’s again in the future, yeah!) Ethan and Brynne are anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child. Dealing, finally, with Ethan’s post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his having been in Afghanistan serving in the British Army’s Special Forces.

Brynne hasn’t seen the last of her past in the physical, nor has Ethan for that matter–character reappearances from books’ past. But the overarching theme is the loving and committed relationship that Brynne and Ethan have. Her pregnancy is relatively smooth. Ethan’s business as a security specialist is not without excitement, but for the most part is ‘normal.’ I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying The Blackstone’s get their happily ever after, and so do some other people.

Tara’s Take:
One of the primary things I loved right off the bat with this series is that it didn’t involve a billionaire and a naive 20-year old. Ethan is successful and money is never an issue, but he’s not totally over the top filling closets with designer clothes especially made for Brynne. And while Brynne does model nude to make ends meet, she has a full-time job and doesn’t need to be coddled.

Ethan’s PTSD is something more people can relate to in this day and age than we may realize. Coupled with Brynne learning how to deal with it as well, along with her own past demons–it’s reminiscent of real life couples dealing with the struggles and tragedies that affect so many.

Brynne is managing hormones that bring about insecurities related to her ever-changing body as a result of pregnancy. Ethan is trying to be the best man he can possibly be in the face of becoming a father for the first time. Honestly, I really think this series could be a tv mini-series. Then again, I’m admittedly biased and I’m not sure any actor could ever do these characters justice in my eyes–Miller has written them just that well.

Recipe Roundup: Coca Cola Cake

coca cola cakeI am the girl who ALWAYS asks in restaurants, “Do you have Coke or Pepsi?” And if the answer is Pepsi, I get stick with water or iced tea. Coke has kick and can quench a thirst water can’t sometimes. But that’s just me.

Naturally, when I came across a cake that had Coke in it, well–of course I was going to give it a try. You don’t even need an electric mixer, how new age is that? Came out very moist. And I got to drink the rest of the 20oz. bottle of Coke that wasn’t used. Enjoy!

Coca Cola Cake
I found this recipe on no rules, just happy crafting

Preheat oven to 350, and grease up (I like Crisco) a 9×13 (or so) pan.
(Tara’s Tips: I sprayed a 9×13 glass pan with Pam.)

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda**
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup coca-cola (from bottle is my preference!)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup coca cola

Mix:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda**
1/2 tsp cinnamon

** Note: I have made this with baking powder or soda – Either way works. “powder” is what was listed in the recipe I got it from, but soda is slightly better results.–(Tara’s Tips: This isn’t my note, but I followed it and used baking soda, worked like a charm.)

In a saucepan over medium high heat stir this up good until it boils:
1 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup coca-cola (from bottle is my preference!)
1/2 cup buttermilk

Now take off heat and add that to the flour mix & whisk until combined.

Then add:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix, put in pan, bake it for about 30 minutes. Yes, it’s a quick bake. Don’t over-bake it!

When cake is nearly done make the glaze by mixing in saucepan:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup coca cola

Once that boils, remove and slowly stir in 4 cups of confectioners’ sugar until nice and smooth. Then add in about a cup of chopped pecans, and give it a stir.

Once cake is done and out of oven (toothpick should come out clean), pour this warm glaze right over the top of the hot cake!

Wait.

Let it set… let it cool for a few minutes at least…

Enjoy warm or cold. (next day/etc. feel free to microwave for a few seconds to warm it up… so good)

Book Review: Kaleidescope

kaleidescopeI have read so many of Kristen Ashley’s books it’s not even funny. She has several series and I just love so many of them. Kaleidoscope is part of Ashley’s Colorado Mountain series, which is one of my faves of hers. (It’s also a primary reason I have been so infatuated with moving to Colorado!)

In a nutshell:
Kaleidoscope follows the story of Jacob (Deck) Decker and Emmanuelle (Emme) Holmes. They were best friends, years ago. She was a bit frumpy in those days and he was dating, and went on to get engaged to her best friend. They connected back then on more than a physical level, but always respected the boundaries that were in place because he was taken. But he’s not anymore.

Fast forward many years and Emme is now the successful manager of her family’s construction business. Deck is…well, it’s hard to describe what Deck is. Law enforcement hires him for the cases they can’t break and he also works some on his own. Private investigator. Commando. Super sleuth. All of the above? Anyway, he’s working a case with the local police department that–unbeknownst to her–involves Emme and her boyfriend. Yeah, now she’s taken. Oh, and her frumpy days are long gone.

As Emme works to restore her dilapidated, historic home and Deck works to make sure she’s safe, they begin to realize what was between them all those years ago is stronger than ever.

Tara’s Take:
This is in my top ten of Ashley’s books. It’s not a traumatic, angst filled tale. The heart of the story is about two people reconnecting many years later and figuring out how they work. Yes, there’s some intrigue thrown in, but it’s more of an aside than the primary focal point.

I found this book to be refreshing. Who hasn’t had things in their past shape who they are today? Who hasn’t felt lonely and wished for more, even though they were afraid of what that might mean? The feelings expressed by the hero and heroine in this book were true to form and had me thinking, I can relate. Which only made this story that much more engrossing.

Side Note:
One of the many things I love about Ashley’s books is the fact that the characters aren’t 20. More often than not, her main characters are older 30’s to mid-40’s. Realizing I’m dating myself, it makes it that much easier for me to identify with them. We’ll just leave it at that. The male characters are strong and not ‘broken’ like so many mainstream love stories these days. It’s usually the female character that is working through some issues and the man is right there to support her and hold her up when she needs it. You gotta love that!