Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "How To Bake a Man" by Jessica Barksdale Inclán Served with Nut Butter Cereal Crispies (No-Bake Cookies)

The office candy dish, morning meeting pastries, and the occasional cake for birthday celebrations are hard enough to resist--imagine if someone came by your office twice a day with a cart piled high with delectable homemade baked goods. It might be a recipe for some extra pounds, but it's also Rebecca Muchmore's idea for a small business so she drops out of grad school to start Becca's Best. How To Bake a Man is a funny food-filled novel by Jessica Barksdale Inclán and a review is being served up along with some no-bake Nut Butter Cereal Crispies as part of this TLC Book Tour.   

Publisher's Blurb:

When 27-year-old Becca Muchmore drops out of grad school, all she has left to fall back on is her baking. Ignoring her mother’s usual barrage of disapproval and disappointment, she decides to start a small business hand-delivering her wares. A friend introduces her to an office of hungry lawyers, who agree to give her a try. Her lizard-booted neighbor Sal is happy to help out when he can, and almost before she knows it, Becca’s Best is up and running. 

Before she can settle into a routine, things get complicated. The office ogress could easily be Becca’s sister and has absolutely no patience with cookies or other frivolities. Even worse, her boyfriend is the man of Becca’s dreams – kind, funny, successful, and brain-meltingly gorgeous. As the dark undercurrents threaten to pull her down, Becca swiftly finds herself neck-deep in office politics, clandestine romance, and flour. Saving her business (and finding true love) is going to take everything she’s got, and more.

Packed with charm, sparkling humor, and a genuinely unforgettable cast, this delicious tale of a woman struggling to find her path might just be Jessica Barksdale Inclán’s finest novel to date.

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Ghostwoods Books (October 21, 2014)

This is definitely a chick lit book for food lovers with a sweet tooth--it is fun and as light and fluffy as an angel food cake. It will also make you crave a chocolate chip cookie, blueberry muffin, cinnamon roll or a slice of rum cake--maybe even all of them at once. I had not read anything by Jessica Barkdale Inclán before, but it is clear she writes food really well--each chapter starts with a recipe description that made me hungry, even for baked goods that aren't particular favorites of mine like gingerbread and cheesecake. (Many of these recipes can be found at the back of the book.) It did take me a while to warm up to the main character Becca--for a 27-year-old, I thought she lacked maturity and was quite the drama queen. At times it was amusing, at times her all-about-me-all-the-time focus got a bit old. More likable right away were the male leads--Jeff, the handsome attorney boyfriend of Jennifer, Becca's evil-acting doppelganger, and Sal, Becca's supportive and funny neighbor. Becca does grow through the book and her character becomes more appealing as she does (plus, you have to like someone who makes magic in the kitchen and takes the time to give her leftover products to the homeless each day). A quick and entertaining read--chick lit fans, lovers of foodie fiction, romance readers, and those looking for a cute story that comes with some mouthwatering recipes will enjoy this book.

Author Notes: Jessica Barksdale Inclan is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including the best-selling Her Daughter’s EyesThe Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. She has also published several ebooks and a women’s studies textbook, Diverse Voices of Women. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech. Inclán teaches composition, creative writing, mythology, and women’s literature at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, and online novel writing courses for UCLA Extension. Find out more about Jessica at her website, jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

There are of course plenty of delectable baked goods mentioned in the book--all manner of cookies, sweet and savory muffins, brownies, pie, bread, and cake. There are sixteen recipes in the back of the book, tried and tested by the author and her family. There are even a few non-baked goods food mentions--spaghetti, hamburger casserole, oysters, arugula and pecorino salad,  but, I really wanted to make something sweet and cookie-like. My challenge--I am currently ovenless. It hasn't been great for baking for a few months now, but it totally went out recently and I have yet to get in gear and get a replacement.  Since no oven = no bake, I decided to go with a batch of my favorite no-bake Nut Butter Crispies.

These cookie treats are quickly made in one bowl and full of goodies, so although they are actually pretty healthy in terms of ingredients, they taste like they should be bad for you which I like. They are also very adaptable to whatever you have on hand. I love using puffed millet for the crispy texture but I subbed in an easier-to-find brown crispy rice cereal instead. Can't have nuts? Use sunflower butter or soy 'peanut' butter and swap the almonds out for sunflower seeds. Want them vegan? Use agave instead of honey and vegan chips. Gluten-free? Use gluten-free oats and chocolate chips. Add coconut, chopped mac nuts, and dried mango or pineapple to give them a tropical feel. I make these a lot for cooking classes and demos and they are always a crowd pleaser. So I suppose they are an easy way for how to no-bake a man! ;-)

Nut Butter Cereal Crispies (No-Bake Cookies)
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 18) 

1/2 cup rolled / old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup crispy brown rice cereal, or puffed millet cereal
1/3 cup dried fruit pieces (I used cranberries)
1/3 cup dark chocolate mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup sliced almonds or other nuts
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds (or ground flax seeds, or wheat germ)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups natural peanut butter or nut butter of your choice) + more if needed (I used peanut butter and almond butter)
1/3 cup honey or agave (eye it, it's easier than messing with a measuring cup) + more if needed

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla extract, nut butter, and honey and mix thoroughly. 

(Mixing Note: You can start mixing these with a big heavy spoon but you'll probably need to get down and dirty and use your hands towards the end to get everything mixed together. Nut butters vary in consistency, the mixture should be a “moldable” texture and not too crumbly--add extra peanut butter or honey if needed to get it to the right texture. You can also heat the nut butter and honey if it is too crumbly to mix well--just make sure to let the mixture cool before adding the mini chips or they will melt. If mixture is too 'wet'--add extra oats.)

Shape mixture into small balls with your hands and place on a wax paper lin
ed cookie sheets. With your palm, flatten each ball slightly into a disk shape. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to firm.

Keep stored in an airtight container in fridge.

Nutritional Info: Per 1 Crispie: calories 145; total fat 9.8g; saturated fat 1g; carbs 10.6g; sodium 10 mg; sugars 5.8g; fiber 3g; protein 4.8g.

Notes/Results: Like a peanut buttery-rice crispy crunch, these are fun little treats best enjoyed right out of the fridge as they hold their shape best when chilled. They have a good texture--chewy, crisp and creamy. You can use any combination of dried fruit, nut butter and healthy grain cereal you like. Using freshly ground nut butters rather than jarred brands reduces the sugar and sodium counts. These are rich enough that one or two are very satisfying. I will make them again. 

Note: A review copy of "How To Bake a Man" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of the TLC Book Tours and Reviews here.


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