Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Zeroes - YA Book Review

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The new YA novel Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld with co-authors Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti reminded me of the X-men. A group of teenagers with special powers that make them different, and misunderstood, from everyone else. They don't know where their powers came from, and some of them don't really know how to control them. But if they work together, can they go from being zeroes to heroes?

The group's powers are put to the test when one of them, Ethan - code name "Scam", involuntarily uses his power to get tied up with a bank robbery gone bad. Now he's got the cops, some Russian mobsters, and a scary guy called "the Craig" after him. Will his friends and the girl he just met, who also has a power of her own, be able to pool their powers to rescue him and set everything right again?

Not going to lie: this is a long book. But the chapters are fairly short, and there's a lot of action in the story, which moves things along quite nicely. Good to know if you like to read but find a 546-page book daunting.

This book is recommended for teens ages 14 and up, and I find that age recommendation very accurate. If you're a teen, an adult, or the parent of a teen who likes science fiction and superhero stories, then Zeroes will keep you entertained and wanting more, even after that 546th page. Don't worry, though. This is the first installment of a series.

Zeroes is published by Simon Pulse and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Schar Gluten-Free Artisan Bread

A few weeks ago, we received a package in the mail from the good folks at Schar. Inside were two loaves of its brand new gluten-free artisan bread. This bread could not have come at a better time because my husband was almost out of his previous gluten-free bread go-to (Udi's), so this prevented us from needing to make an emergency grocery store run.

Now, finding good gluten-free bread is really hard. Hence why we haven't deviated from our usual Udi's bread. Once you find something that is good, you stick with it and hope they never change the formula or stop making it altogether! So imagine my surprise when my husband, after finishing off the Artisan Baker Multigrain Bread, told me how good it was and that he'd like me to buy it more often.

Another gluten-free bread that actually tastes good???!!!

Hard to believe but there you have it. And luckily, my local ShopRite does carry this new bread. AND it's a little bit cheaper than Udi's. 

So what is so amazing and different about this new bread? Well, it's gluten-free, lactose-free, and preservative-free. It's also made from buckwheat, quinoa, flaxseeds, sourdough, millet, sunflower seeds, and honey. Each ingredient was picked for a specific reason. For instance, honey help lower inflammation and soothes gastrointestinal disturbances. It also has a low glycemic index and won't spike blood sugar like processed sugars.

The information booklet I received gave some recipe ideas for use with the bread. However, what did we do with this amazing new bread?

We made grilled cheese. Come on! It's a classic!

And this bread makes a great grilled cheese! I love the way it gets all golden. My regular, gluten-filled bread always ends up kind of flimsy, but this Schar Artisan Bread holds up so well! Don't those sandwiches look like the perfect grilled cheese sandwich?

If you want to find which stores near you carry this new bread as well as tons of other Schar products (the ciabatta rolls are awesome!), just use Schar's store locator.

I received the Schar gluten-free Artisan Bread for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Our Latest Gluten-Free Recipes

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some food photos from me. Have no fear, I'm going to go more in-depth on what we made in this blog post!

First up, is Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon with a baked potato and asparagus. It's a great combination of the soy sauce with maple syrup! The original recipe comes from the book What to Eat When You're Pregnant, so I can't reprint it here, but I did find a few similar recipes for you to try:
1. Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon from Cooking Classy
2. Soy-Maple Salmon from Food Network
3. Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon from America's Test Kitchen and

Just keep in mind that if you are making this gluten-free, your soy sauce HAS to be gluten-free. We actually use San-J Gluten-free Tamari sauce, and I like that because it also is low in sodium and has no added MSG. You can also add whatever sides you want with this. My cookbook recommended the baked potato and asparagus, but white or brown rice would be lovely, too.

We also made Pork, Chard, and Black Bean Soup with Cumin, which came from the What to Eat When You're Pregnant book. And because my husband doesn't think of soup on its own as a "meal", we added gluten-free Nabisco White Cheddar Rice Thins crackers and cheddar cheese on the side. (This was also recommended to do in the cookbook.) 

Again, I can't reprint this recipe for you, but here are similar recipes for you to try out:
1. Chard and White Bean Stew from Smitten Kitchen
3. White Beans with Swiss Chard and Rice from The New York Times

Our recipe called for chicken broth, so if you're making this gluten-free, just make sure your chicken broth is gluten-free. Also, less is more with the swiss chard, in my opinion.

And finally, we tried something a little different using a recipe from the September issue of Family Circle magazine. This is Maple-Mustard Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. (You might have to register or sign in with Family Circle upon clicking on the above link. It's free to register, but annoying, I know.)

First off, the recipe called for eight chicken thighs, but my husband (who made this ALL BY HIMSELF) could only fit five of them on our baking sheet. I guess we need a bigger baking sheet?

Second, our grocery store did not carry "fingerling potatoes", so I just purchased a bag of baby Yukon gold potatoes.

And third, the Brussels sprouts. The crispy bits were pretty good, but overall, I don't think they are something that we will be making again. Many people have told me that they LOVE Brussels sprouts and their kids LOVE Brussels sprouts and you HAVE to make them THIS way and you'll LOVE them, too. Well, folks, I think I ruined our chances of every trying Brussels sprouts again. My husband might divorce me if I try to bring them into our kitchen again. So, those are out and don't try to get me to change my mind!

What have you guys been eating? Anything here spark your culinary interest?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nightfall - YA Book Review

It's almost Halloween, and don't you want a good scary story to read during this time? That's exactly what Nightfall is.

In this story by authors Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski, 14-year-old Marin, her twin brother Kana, and their best friend Line live in a world where there are 14 years of daytime and 14 years of nighttime. When night comes, everybody must clear out ... or else.

So what happens if someone gets left behind?

Well, that's what Marin, Kana, and Line will find out. And while they discover just what to fear in the night, they will also discover a bit more about who they are and what they can survive.

I got to hear the authors talk about this book at a panel at Book Expo America, and I was totally hooked on the premise! So, I stood in line to get an autographed copy of the book! And I'm so glad I did. This was a very entertaining read, and a fast read, that left me guessing at the end of every chapter. Parts of it were a little scary, too. I was reading the book by myself at night and thought, "Maybe I should wait to continue after my husband gets home." It's that kind of book!

Nightfall is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free autographed ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fates and Furies - Book Review

So much buzz about this book by author Lauren Groff! I first heard about Fates and Furies at a Book Club Speed Dating session at Book Expo America. It was described as being a "dazzling portrait of a marriage" with one part of the story told from the man's point of view, and then something happens, and then it starts over from the woman's point of view.

I guess I had some expectations for what this book was going to be, including what the story was going to be and what the structure was going to be. And I have to say, it was not at all what I was expecting. I would definitely classify this book as "literature", mainly because the male main character is so pretentious and was clearly written by an erudite author. (I am so un-erudite that I had to look up the word "erudite" by Googling "someone with a big vocabulary".)

So, a beach read this is not.

That said, while I despised the first half of this book and actually considered not finishing it, the second half was much more enjoyable to read! The pace picked up, the female character was more likable than the man, and I enjoyed having the "secrets" revealed.

I do think this book would make for some good book club discussion. You know, what kind of secrets are acceptable to keep in a marriage, if any? Even if the female had tried to tell her secrets to her husband, do you think he was just too self-involved to even hear her? (Yes.)

Fates and Furies is published by Riverhead Books and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free ARC from Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Cooking with Goya Mojo

Before the end of summer, Goya was kind enough to send me a few of its products to test out for free: Mojo Chipotle marinade, coconut water, and Sazonado Total seasoning. Even though it's no longer summer (well, technically it's summer until September 21, but school is in session now, so summer is "over"), you can still bring the flavors of summer into your home with these delicious ingredients and some equally delicious Goya recipes.

I figured it would be easier for me to start with the Mojo Chipotle sauce, which sounded like it would make a great marinade for meat! So I went with the Goya recipe for Carne Asada Tacos, which you can find on Goya's website here. (This recipe is kind of spicy, so be warned. And if steak tacos aren't your thing, you can find TONS of other recipes from the recipe portal on Goya's website.)

It uses corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas, so it's super easy to make gluten-free. Just don't put too much taco sauce on top of your tacos or the shells will get too wet and flimsy. We had to eat our tacos with forks. Oops!

And with our leftover meat (steak), I whipped up a steak stirfry a few nights later using sugar snap peas, bok choy, gluten-free Tamari sauce, sugar, and honey. (I ran out of brown sugar, so I just threw in half white sugar and half honey. Worked fine in a pinch!) Serve over rice and call it a night! It was inspired by this recipe from Real Simple magazine.

I'll let you know how I fare with the other Goya ingredients! How would you use Goya's Mojo Chipotle sauce?

Disclaimer: Goya sent me the three ingredients listed above for free in exchange for a blog post. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - September 21

It's time for another Meal Plan Monday! We rearranged the meal plan last week. (I had to cut my husband some slack for trying Brussels sprouts with me for the first time. We both disliked them.) So some of what we were going to have last week has gotten pushed to this week.

Sunday: slow cooker BBQ salsa chicken tacos

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: sausage alfredo

Wednesday: grilled cheese and soup

Thursday: macaroni and cheese with a side salad

Friday: on our own

Saturday: chicken thighs with peanut sauce

Friday, September 18, 2015

London Eye and a First Dance

Today I've got an example of creating one scrapbook layout and then using the scraps to create a second scrapbook layout! I really need to do this more often.

"Above & Below" features pictures taken from the ground before we got on the London Eye and pictures from the sky as we rotated around in the London Eye. The only paper used on this layout of which I know the manufacturer's name is the cream-colored patterned paper from Studio Calico. Everything else was just in my paper stash. The sticker letters are old Basic Grey.

To create "First Dance", I used leftover scraps from the previous layout. The striped paper is actually the back side of the solid green paper from the first layout. The only pieces that are new to this layout are the kraft cardstock, Studio Calico journaling spot, the American Crafts Thickers, and the "It is written in the stars" button, which was just something from my stash. These are pictures from my brother- and new sister-in-law's wedding earlier this summer. I didn't create this layout with the intention of using these pictures, but I felt that the "It is written in the stars" button would be good for a wedding page. I like that this is not traditionally romantic. There is sort of a country theme with the browns, which reminds me of the cowboy boots and jeans the groom wore during the ceremony.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise - Book Review

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If you've ever had a quarter-life crisis and wanted to escape to a remote island in the Pacific but haven't done it yet, then you might want to read Alex Sheshunoff's book A Beginner's Guide to Paradise. This guy did it and wrote it about it.

It might sound crazy, but Sheshunoff broke up with his girlfriend, left his internet website job, and flew with a one-way ticket to an island called Yap. When Yap wasn't his ideal vision of "paradise", he island-hopped in search of it.

But just what is "paradise"? Is it sitting around and reading all the books you've always wanted to but never have? Is it wearing a loincloth and bringing cigarettes as an offering to the island's elders? Is it meeting a woman and falling instantly in love?

This humorous book is written in a how-to style, but it's really a memoir of what I think was the start of the author's second chapter in life.

And if you're wondering if any of it is true, just go to the author's website for pictures of the people and things he saw while on his sabbatical. Yes, he and the girl and their friends built a house from scratch!

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise is published by NAL, a division of Penguin Random House. I received a free ARC at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

3 London Scrapbook Pages

I had a lot of free time during the Labor Day weekend to get some scrapbooking done, so here are three scrapbook layouts that I completed using pictures from our London vacation last summer.

"Afternoon in the City" features papers from Studio Calico, letter stickers from the Basic Grey Mon Ami collection, and random embellishments from my stash. These are pictures of St. Paul's Cathedral, the Shard building, and gluten-free pizza at Pizza Express. You can read more about Pizza Express in my Gluten-Free London post.

"Not All of London is Good" features papers from Basic Grey Mon Ami, paper scraps from Studio Calico, American Crafts Thickers, and letter stickers from the Target $1 spot. Out of our entire trip to London, there were only two things we didn't really like. The first was the musical "Matilda". We had heard good things about it, and we thought that seeing it in London would be really cool, but we were wrong. The music was totally forgettable, and the whole thing just lacked magic.

The second thing we didn't like in London was Cotto. This restaurant had gluten-free pasta, but my husband said it wasn't really good. (My regular pasta was good, however.) And to top it off, the service was awful! Aren't you glad we experienced it so you don't have to?

"Life is Great!" was made a LONG time ago. I don't even remember what the products are. Possibly Echo Park? These were all scraps, and I just wanted to use them up even if I didn't have a picture to go with it. So I saved created this layout and saved it until, well, NOW. This is a picture of us on the London Eye.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - September 14

This week's fetal development power food is chicken. So we've got a lot of chicken on the menu! Here's what's what this week:

Sunday: out

Monday: on our own

Tuesday: steak stir fry

Wednesday: maple-mustard chicken with potatoes

Thursday: chicken thighs with peanut sauce

Friday: on our own

Saturday: slow cooker BBQ salsa chicken tacos

What are you guys eating this week?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nom Nom Paleo - Cookbook Review

For some reason, I was confusing the Paleo diet with a raw diet, but that's not what it is at all. Eating Paleo means eating whole, unprocessed foods (plants, meat, and seafood) and eliminating grains (most of which are genetically modified), legumes, sugar, and processed seed and vegetable oils. You're also supposed to cut down on fruit, nuts and seeds, starches, dairy, and natural sweeteners.

But that's what's great about Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong. This cookbook, which is based on the website Nom Nom Paleo, sets you straight and gives you a nice jumping off point if you're serious about starting a Paleo diet. Nom Nom Paleo is funny, informative, and filled with cute illustrations. A lot of the foods are Asian-inspired because Michelle's family is Chinese. And the majority of the Paleo recipes are also naturally gluten-free, which is good news for those with Celiac who are looking to eat more whole, nutrient-rich foods.

The only thing is that most of the recipes are going to take a long time to make, and for some of them, there are other things you have to make first. I was really excited about Fiona's Green Chicken (two hours to make), Super Pork-tastic Meatloaf (two hours to make), and Oven-Baked Sweet Potatoes (one hour to make). Even the Fried Salmon Patties take an hour to make! On worknights, we need dinner to be ready in 30 minutes, otherwise we'll be eating at 9:00, and that's too close to my bedtime.
Maple Sausage Patties
We managed to make the Maple Sausage Patties, which only took about 30 total minutes to make and cook. We had ours with scrambled eggs, and then we had the leftovers as part of bagel and egg sandwiches. The bagels were definitely not part of the Paleo diet plan, but we never said we were going totally Paleo here, so oh well!

Nom Nom Paleo is published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

GFAF Expo Ticket Winners Announced

Congrats to the winners of the NJ GFAF Expo one-day tickets: Andrea P. and Dale S.

Emails have been sent to the winners!

Didn't win? You can still save 20% on your tickets (through 10/2) when you order through this link:

Hope to see you all at the Expo next month!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What to Eat When You're Pregnant - Book Review

When it comes to food and pregnancy, the facts out there can get a little confusing. I bought What to Expect When You're Expecting, and then my OBGYN said not to follow the diet suggestions in that book or I'd gain a ton of weight. My OBGYN's recommendation, aside from no hot dogs and deli meat and soft cheeses, was to cut back on the carbs.

So, those are things I CAN'T eat, but what SHOULD I eat?

I'm in my second trimester of pregnancy, and I wish I had gotten this book earlier. What to Eat When You're Pregnant by Nicole M. Avena, PhD, is not just a "don't eat this" and "avoid that" book. Instead, Dr. Avena tells you what you CAN eat and how it helps your baby's development through each stage of pregnancy.

Not only does this book tell you the key nutrients you need to be getting while pregnant and what foods contain those nutrients, but the book also includes recipes to make it easy for you to work those foods into your diet, especially if those foods aren't normally ones you eat every day.

Some of the recipes that I thought sounded good were Pork, Chard, and Black Bean Soup with Cumin; Harvest Oatmeal with Pumpkin Seeds (it's pumpkin season, y'all!); and Arugula Salad with Turkey, Avocado, and Dried Cranberries (perfect for Thanksgiving leftovers?).

We made the Maple Soy Glazed Salmon. (Salmon is one fish that it's okay to eat while pregnant!) It was very good, and, per the recommendations in the book, we had asparagus and a baked potato on the side.

But while a healthy diet during pregnancy is important, what's also important is a healthy diet AFTER pregnancy. Once the baby arrives, read the last chapter of this book for strategies to lose the bump and maintain your healthy eating patterns.

This is a great book that will take pregnant woman from start to finish and beyond. If you're pregnant, buy this book. If you know someone who is newly pregnant, buy this book for them.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Meal Plan Monday - September 7

Hope everyone in the U.S. is enjoying their Labor Day weekends! It was so nice to have two extra days off of work. I got some scrapbooking done (more on that later), and I actually had time to figure out a meal plan for this week. Last night we just had leftovers, so I'm starting this plan with Monday, which is tonight!

Monday: maple-soy glazed salmon with asparagus and baked potatoes

Tuesday: GF California Pizza Kitchen pizza

Wednesday: Carne Asada Tacos featuring Goya products

Thursday: macaroni and cheese with ground beef and green beans

Friday: turkey burgers and fries

Saturday: pork, chard, and black bean soup with cumin and cheese and crackers

What are you guys eating this week?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

5 Best Things About the GFAF Expo + GIVEAWAY

Last year was my first year attending the Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly (GFAF) Expo in New Jersey as both an official blogger and a regular attendee. When I wrote my required pre-Expo post, I really didn't know what to expect from the event aside from the information provided to me on the official website.

But now with one year under my belt, I know what to expect, and as an official blogger for the second year in a row, I'm ready to tell you the five BEST things about the GFAF Expo.

That's right! It's back! The Expo is held in several locations throughout the year, but the one I'm attending is in Secaucus, NJ, at the Meadlowlands Exposition Center on Saturday, October 3, 2015 and Sunday, October 4, 2015. Event times are 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days, and you can save 20% through October 2 when you order tickets online using this link (or wait until the bottom of this post for a chance to win a one-day ticket!).

So, if you're part of the Celiac disease community or allergen-free community, why should you attend the GFAF Expo?

1. Free Samples
Come hungry! The Expo is host to more than 100 gluten-free and allergen-free vendors, and they're ALL giving out free samples. This is your chance to taste test some amazing new foods that are all safe for you to eat!

Some of my favorite free samples from last year!

2. Discover New Products
And while you're sampling, you'll hopefully discover some new favorite products to add to your regular grocery shopping list and new brands that you never knew existed.

Was so excited to see the unveiling of ShopRite's
new gluten-free pasta at last year's Expo.

3. One-Stop Shopping
If you like what you sampled, there's also the chance to purchase products direct from the manufacturers! And some vendors offer show-only promotions and deals, so you won't want to miss out. Just make sure that you bring some cash because not all vendors will accept credit cards or checks.

Show day-only specials at the GoPicnic booth.
I hope they're back this year! I'm going to stock up!

4. Help Support Local Gluten-Free Companies
Last year I was so surprised and impressed by how many local NJ and NY companies were present at the event. And the chance to buy direct from these companies at the Expo is a great way to support local business, especially a local business that is taking your food restrictions seriously. You definitely don't want companies like that to go away! They can be hard to find!

NJ-based Hoboken Farms and its very delicious sauces!

5. Informative Seminars
Off the show floor, there are a variety of seminars happening throughout the day at the Expo. Whether you're a newbie to eating gluten-free or you've been doing it for years, these seminars offer lots of great information from experts in the field. Speakers at this year's event include Jenna Drew, Silvana Nardone, Amy Fothergill, and more! Plus, you never know what kind of surprises will be in store at the seminars. Last year, there was a marriage proposal!!

Amy Fothergill of The Family Chef speaks at last year's Expo

Want to go? You can purchase tickets to the Secaucus Expo at a 20% discount here (through 10/2) or use the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win one free one-day ticket to the Secaucus, NJ Expo (good for Saturday OR Sunday, but not both days). This giveaway runs from September 3, 2015 through September 10, 2015. Winners will be announced on September 11, 2015.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Awake - YA Book Review

What would you do if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie? Is your family really your family? Is your boyfriend really your boyfriend?

That's sort of the premise behind Natasha Preston's YA novel Awake. Scarlett lives with her mom, dad, and brother in a very normal setting. She goes to school, has friends, and lives a very normal life. The only exception is that Scarlett doesn't remember anything before she was 4 years old due to the traumatic experience of surviving a house fire.

Or so she's been told.

Not having those memories freaks out Scarlett. (Although, I don't remember things from before I was 4 years old, and I think that's totally normal for most human beings traumatic experiences or not, but whatever.) But then a car accident helps to jolt Scarlett's memory of her past, and when she learns the truth, she's not so sure she wants to know. Can her family protect her from what's out there? Can her new boyfriend? Does he really want to protect her?

I did like the premise of this book, which is why I finished it. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Scarlett and how it was all going to play out. The only problem is that the dialogue was very stiff and unrealistic. There were also a few parts of the story that I thought didn't make sense or weren't fully developed enough. Part of the story deals with a cult, and I really wanted to know more about the cult - how did it get started and why did it believe what it believed? The leaders of the cult couldn't even explain it very well to the main character.

Apparently the author's first book The Cellar was really good, so I'm eager to read her books backwards and see if The Cellar is more my speed.

Awake is published by Sourcebooks and is on bookstore shelves now. I received a free advance reader copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Last Day ... We're Positive

I took a break from scrapbooking the pictures from our London/Paris trip last summer to scrap a little more personal pages about things that are happening right now.

This is a close-up of the 12x12 page I made commemorating my last day taking birth control. The journaling, which got cut off, is all about how we just decided that we couldn't continue to wait for our circumstances to be the way we wanted them. If we wanted to try to have a baby, we just needed to go for it. I wonder how many of you reading this have been in the same boat?

So anyway, March 8 was the last day. Once you stop taking birth control, you have to wait three months before trying to keep your risk of miscarriage low. So, then June came along.

And I got to use some old American Crafts Neapolitan to scrapbook about our positive pregnancy test! Looking forward to (and kind of nervous about) March 2016!