The Blender Girl by Tess Masters - A Cookbook Review and Giveaway

In her debut cookbook, Tess Masters, creator of the popular epicurean blog Healthy Blend Recipes and also known as 'The Blender Girl,"  delivers a delicious array of 100 plant based, whole food dishes. But don't let the title fool you, as the vegan and gluten free recipes are not limited to blender only creations. Chapters include nutrient dense and power packed smoothies and shakes, rich and creamy non-dairy appetizers, creative salads with easy dressings,  inventive soups, meatless mains, sweet desserts, juices, and from scratch condiments. Introduction includes informative directions for soaking and sprouting raw nuts, seeds, and whole grains, as well as lists of power foods and ways to incorporate and ‘blend’ them into your diet. A how-to milking guide for making non-dairy alternatives, a build your own smoothie chart, as well as information on probiotics, alkalines, and how to test your own pH also make this cookbook a handy reference guide for healthful recipe creating. An exhaustive food resource list and further reading recommendations round out this diverse and healthful combination of recipes for the health conscious and adventurous cook. A few of the innovative must try recipes include an artichoke and white bean dip (a healthy alternative to the fat and dairy laden original,)  a raw chocolate torte, a meatless veggie filled chili, and a gluten free pizza topped with arugula and Yukon potatoes.  For the vegan and those desiring recipes filled with live enzymes and alkaline boosters, The Blender Girl delivers an innovative array of options, beautiful photographs, and plenty of inspiration. 

Comment below with your favorite blender ingredient for a chance to win this cookbook! 

Thank you to Blogging For Books for providing this cookbook to me, and the chance for me to offer it as a giveaway to my readers.

Lost Faith In Humanity? Spend A Day In High School

Five minutes of watching the news and you will wonder how the world, how mankind, and all of humanity is going to survive. We are told our young people are all into crime, gang violence, are depressed,  or addicted to prescription drugs or the internet.  They are spoiled, coddled, and have no work ethic. They are information natives, having been raised always connected to a device, rather than to each other, and as such are allegedly socially inept, yielding  repercussions we have yet to discover.  I have two teenage sons, and often find myself looking at our society and wondering, "Have I done enough? Are they going to make it out there?" I also have days when I look at them, and attempt to process hormonal mood swings, piles of messes, groans and griping. Or I stand in shock at their sometimes disrespect and ungratefulness, and simply think "How does anyone survive the teenage years?"

Thankfully, my hope in the future, mine and theirs, and in what our nation's teenagers are capable of, is renewed at a place where you may think it would be falling apart; a typical American high school. There, in the library where I volunteer, teenagers in this small Catholic school roam in and out, doing teenager-ish things; hanging out, sporting earbuds and bopping their heads listening to rap music, tapping hard on computers, staring deeply into tablet screens and calculus books.  But if you look deeper, if you really observe their behavior, and you take a second and ask them some tough questions, and then listen intently, giving no unsolicited advice, only listening and encouraging, you get a glimpse of hope. Hope that these teens can and will rise up to the challenge of adulthood.

Here they come in all shapes and sizes, navigating changing bodies, and having to do so under media pressure which mandates attractive girls must weigh 100 pounds and young males be sculpted like Adonis. There are kids here for whom the yearly tuition is grossly unaffordable, sitting next to kids who could easily pay three times the amount. They treat each other as equals, for they both know the value of their education has no price. They sit in groups together, mixed sexes, mixed shades of skin color, jocks next to artists, next to math geeks, next to class clowns, next to introverts.  We have not forced them to sit like this, in "It's A Small World After All" fashion. They have yet to buy into the media telling them they are racists, bigots, or bullies. For they do not see a white race, a black race, a hispanic race, an asian race.  In their innocence they only see the human race.  At age 15 there is no need to practice or define tolerance, when you have been taught and are still practicing the most basic of lessons, to live to love your fellow man. The Golden Rule is alive and kicking.

I sometimes strike up "What do you want to be when you grow up?" conversations with them. I am not a threat to their honesty, I am not neither their parent pouring pressure over them, nor their teacher ready to grade and evaluate their answer. They harbor no fear of being honest with me. Their answers cover the spectrum of being insightful, ambitious, inspiring, nonplussed, often vague. To the type A kids, whose answers sound scripted and rehearsed, and who appear to know exactly what their field of study is going to be, how long it is going to take, what their job title will be, and what it pays, I reply, "Have at it! Set those goals. Keep your eye on your passion, your prize. Some people live their whole life and never figure out what their purpose is."  To the type B kids, who stare off into space while they tell me they have no idea what they want to do, they have too many varied interests, do they really have to decide now? I reply, "Have at it! Keep looking for your passion. Stay open to the possibilities. Some people live their whole life doing what they were never meant to do because they never left their options open." Both the questions and the replies yield the same reaction from myself and the students....big smiles. Possibility. Promise. Hope.

The face and future of humanity, if we continue to look for it in the wrong places, is ugly. It is a warped reflection of mankind, of only one horrific news story after another. The face and future of humanity, when we look for it in our youth, is beautiful. It is a perfect reflection of mankind, in all its purity, honesty, and goodness. It is spunky teenagers who will grow into poised adults, and vow to do 'life' better than their parents, and probably will. It is aplomb with hope. These kids. Our futures. I think we are going to be just fine.

Starbucks Gift Card and Hand Knit Cup Cozy GIVEAWAY!

Yes, folks....the Pumpkin Spice Latte is BAAAACCCCK! And you REALLY need this little gift, so you can look cutie patootie whilst drinking your 500 calorie, $5 cup of coffee!  All you have to do is comment below, or on the Facebook page to this question.....

What is your favorite coffee drink?

That's it! One comment will be randomly chosen and will be the winner!

5 Things You Should Have Done In Pre-Marital Counseling

I am a Catholic, I married a Catholic, and as such we were required to undergo something called pre-cana class, or pre-marital counseling class, which is typically given by a priest. A PRIEST.   Uuuhhhhh, yea. But NO. I did not want someone who is not actually married giving me advice and counseling on how to be married. Sure,  he is married to Christ, but Jesus doesn't leave the toilet seat up, fart in bed, and forget to buy milk. Luckily, our pre-cana was administered to us by our church’s deacon and his wife, an amazing couple who had a wonderful 30+ year marriage. We sat together, the four of us over coffee, and chatted about (almost) all the things married life entailed. We were over the moon in love.  It would always be this easy, right?  Nine and a half months after I got married, I had a son. Then 17 months later I had another, then another, and then another. After boy #4, on a particularly not so hunky-dory I am happily married kind of day, I dug deep into my pre-cana class brain bank looking for answers. What do I remember learning about marriage back then that can now get me though the tough times?  How did the deacon and his wife make it look so easy? Then it hit me, they never had children. Sure, they took care of scads of nieces and nephews and kids of all ages spread across their extended family and neighborhood,  but never did they have their own. That explains it.

I thought about all the mind numbing, mind blowing, and life altering things having children does to your marriage.  All the crap-tastic crap, literally and figuratively, and kid ‘situations’  that test your marriage harder and more brutally than a graduate statistics exam with a tequila shot hangover.  You know what I am talking about; those wonderful mom and dad moments that you two lovebirds get to endure, those lucky precious times where you are just grateful to come out at the other end alive, without having gouged your spouse’s eyeballs out with a hot fireplace poker.  And then I  realized something. My husband and I need to teach pre-cana class, because if your marriage can survive and thrive after four sons and the kind of mayhem we have survived for 17 years, all while laughing and still actually liking each other, than we must know what we are doing.  We are happily married people, living amongst the chaos, and we have wisdom to share. But our class would be a little different. It would not entail us sitting around a table drinking coffee and talking about “yes dears” and “no dears” and holding date nights sacred.  Nope. Instead it would be sort of a set of challenges, or situations, that you and/or your future spouse have to endure, and come out with your eyeballs still intact, sans fireplace poker. If you can do these and walk away still giddy in love, then by all means, tie the knot. Here would be a few;

1. Install an infant and toddler car sear  No biggie right? Now do it in a late model car before the latch system was invented. And rear facing, in a backseat that 25 circus clowns would call tiny. Now do this at a truck stop, in late July, in central Florida. Then drive to the next truck stop, remove car seat (to clean off vomit from car sick infant and wipe down car upholstery) then re-install seat. Don’t wake up baby, who just conked out after repeatedly up-chucking sweet potatoes and Gerber puffs all over the back of your head. Repeat this process for 300 miles, or six truck stops, whichever comes first. Oh, and you also have a two year old with you. He’s potty training, and you are out of Pull-Ups.  Godspeed.  

2. Husbands, tend to the needs of your pregnant wife’s morning all day sickness. This will look nothing like that cute time in college when she drank too much stale keg beer, and you brought her a trash can and shut the door.  You will be taking care of a full-blown vomit machine from  anywhere between one and nine months. You will spend weeks overwhelmed, standing slouched in the beverage aisle of the grocery store, carefully selecting 57 different flavors of hydration in the hopes you buy one she can actually tolerate. Sadly,  none of them you bought will ever touch her lips, only the wall she eventually throws them at.  Duck fast. Try to remain sexually attracted to her, even when the time comes when her belly, too swollen to make leaning over the toilet feasible, she frantically decides it’s just easier to throw up in the bathtub. While you are in it. And- bonus! At the same time she is heaving her breakfast, pelvic pressure from YOUR sweet unborn baby makes her pee right there on the bathroom floor.  Yea, when that precious moment happens, you are gonna have to not say ONE. DAMN. WORD. (Hint: this is where you don’t speak, but just leave her alone, then clean it up.)  Be ready to eat powdered mashed potatoes for nine months, because that great cook you married can no longer smell any type of food, or YOU for that matter. So go ahead and throw out all your colognes, hair products, and deodorants. As a matter of fact, just go ahead and move the hell out, then call her mother to take your place. Come back when baby is six months old.

3. Husbands, spend Christmas Eve up all night assembling toys. Don’t start until about 1 a.m., when it finally hits you that have two little boys sound asleep, who are dreaming of waking up to a cozy coupe, dump truck, train table, red tricycle, Little Tikes wonderland. Sure, your wife has been telling you for weeks to put the toys together but really, how hard can it be? Well, everything needs a flat head screwdriver. You haven't seen yours since you put that crib together four years ago. You bought AAA batteries. Everything needs AA. Your wife, up and awake to feed your third baby, whose diaper just exploded up his back and down her front, is crying with exhaustion and resentment. You had ONE. FREAKING. JOB. Finally, with baby strapped to you in carrier, and your wife long gone (she went back to bed, wishing you a Merry EFFING Christmas on her way there) you have two short hours to remember high school geometry, translate German (had to have the German made lead free toys didn’t you?) and somehow MacGyver the kid’s Blue’s Clue’s flatware  into a Sears Craftsman tool set, aaaaand then find a store open that sells batteries.  All before sunrise. Did I mention you’ve been drinking?

4. Wives, spend eight consecutive years either pregnant or nursing, and maintain a sex drive. Try to have some sort of affectionate touchy feel-y type feelings for you husband, other than wanting your fist to hit his face. Pay no attention to the fact he has remained the same weight since the day you were married, while you have had to gain and lose anywhere between 25-50  pounds four times. Forget the fact that all your parts, both those up there and down there, have undergone a metamorphosis of epic portions, (and I do mean EPIC-dammit if those engorged boobs weren’t awesome while they lasted) and his have all stayed the same. Try not to be upset when his loud snoring is all you can hear while you pace the living room floor at 4 a.m. with a colicky baby, while singing the entire score to Annie because you can’t remember any other song, having lovingly and unselfishly given all your brain cells to HIS babies. Have enough energy to actually give a crap about his needs, after having met the needs of every other human in the house for an average of 22 hours per day.  Try not to look too giddy when last baby weans, and you start daydreaming about how far across the world you can get before your husband comes looking. Recall a time when all you wanted to do was hit the hay with him. This may require wine. It’s ok. Husbands, take it in any way, shape, or form you can get it. Don't complain.

5. Wives, try to be grateful and content in the fact you just found an old chicken nugget on the floor, to go along with that half a bag of goldfish crackers and an overripe banana that made up your dinner. Never mind that your husband just phoned and told you he was  “so bummed” he wouldn't make it home for dinner and gives you the  “…dang it, I have to take a customer to Ruth’s Chris Steak House tonight but I would rather be home with you and the kids,” line of total bull crap. Embrace the nugget. Be grateful and content when his job, which allows you to stay home and mop floors and wipe pee off the back of the toilet all day, also forces him to travel to places like Belgium, and Spain, but “business travel is so rough.” Sure it is. Embrace your exotic travels to the Super Wal-Mart at 9 p.m., with three little kids in tow, because it’s kind of like a foreign country in there anyway. Be grateful and content that you will never earn one single penny for doing all the mothering dirty work, day in and day out, sun up to sun down, but when DAD walks in the door you are immediately chopped liver. Dad=party. You=nagging. Embrace the party. 

5. Teenagers. Just have teenagers. I am there now, and I believe the hype. Believe it people. Nothing, and I mean no crying baby, no terrible twos, no toddler tantrums, no annoying eight year old can hold a candle to dealing with small adult-ish versions of yourself. Mini, smart talking, smart ass, sarcastic little people who you have raised to find humor in all things, are actually NOT FUNNY now. If you and your spouse can get out of the teen years still married,  and make it to that blissful place called the curbside of his freshman college dorm, than you have finished the ultimate in marriage challenges. I think my husband and I are gonna finish this challenge, and possibly still like each other in the end. But we have two more boys coming down the pipe.  Never in a million years did I think saying “I do” would mean having to make it out alive after raising four boys. But I think we just may make it. No hot fireplace poker needed.