Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mediterranean Summer Squash and Cauliflower with Lemon-Herb Gremolata

I had some leftover cauliflower that I needed to use yesterday as well as a brand-new bag of organic yellow squash, so I put together this dish for lunch. I'm growing Greek oregano, parsley, basil, and thyme in my front yard container garden, so I chopped up a fresh Lemon-Herb Gremolata to sprinkle over the top, and it was scrumptious. I sat down and ate two whole plates of it, and with the fats from the oil, olives, and pine nuts, it was more filling than you'd expect from just eating a plate of steamed/sauteed veggies.

(You don't need all four of the fresh herbs I mentioned above to make it--you can use dried Italian seasoning in the tomatoes, and if you at least have some fresh parsley, you can make a delicious cremolata.)

The dish is veggie-centric, just like I try to do as often as I can, and if you oversteam the veggies, it's also a soft vegan meal for people who can't chew well (like me at the moment...TMJ flaring again.)

Mediterranean Summer Squash and Cauliflower with Lemon-Herb Gremolata

(2 servings; vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free)

3 cups cauliflower florets
1 large summer (yellow) squash, halved and cut into thick slices
1/2 TBS olive oil
1 large ripe tomato, halved and sliced
Dried Italian herbs or fresh chopped (I used fresh Greek oregano and fresh thyme)
4-5 black olives, sliced

Steam cauliflower and summer squash to desired level of tenderness (about 10 minutes for firm, up to 30 minutes for super-soft.)

Heat olive oil in skillet and add sliced tomato and dried or fresh herbs. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then lid it to get the tomatoes to break up and soak up the oil and herbs. Cook for about 7-10 minutes, to desired level of sauciness. Toss in the black olives at the end to heat through.

Layer a huge pile of steamed squash and cauliflower, then scrape tomatoes and olives on top. Sprinkle with a little salt and some fresh ground pepper if desired, then top with gremolata, below.

1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, basil, and/or other herbs you like
1 TBS pine nuts
1 small garlic clove, peeled
Zest of 1 lemon

Put all ingredients together in a pile on your cutting board and chop fine.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Healing Foods: Vegan Gazpacho

If you think you're not a fan of gazpacho, you're not alone. It sounds good, looks good, and can be really healthy for you if you skip the recipes that call for white bread, but most of the time just tastes like you're eating really garlicky salsa off a spoon.

I, however, have perfected my gazpacho recipe to the point that I actually crave it for lunch, especially in the summer. And since I'm always on the lookout for soft vegan foods in case I'm having another TMJ flare-up (like right now,) gazpacho is one quick, easy way to get my raw veggies for the day in a delicious little bowl of soup. My gazpacho tastes more like a fresh tomato-cucumber-celery soup and less like sweet, garlicky salsa.

There are a ton of different variations on gazpacho, so feel free to add garlic, basil, hot peppers, or whatever other seasonings or raw veggies sound good to you and that you have on hand. Experiment! You might even come up with a version of your own that you like better.

Vegan Gazpacho

(Gluten-free, sugar free, vegan and raw except for the veggie bouillon. Can't beat that.)

1 medium-large ripe tomato (the riper the better)
2/3 cup cucumber, cut into large chunks
1 stalk celery
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 TBS olive oil
1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste (you probably won't need more than 1/16 of a teaspoon, so salt carefully)
1/4 tsp all-purpose seasoning (I use Bragg's Organic 24 Herbs & Spices seasoning)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup water + 1/4 tsp vegetable bouillon (I use Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base. You could also just use prepared vegetable broth.)

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend for about 1 minute or until desired consistency. Chill or eat immediately. Makes about 1 1/2 cups soup.

Optional garnishes: chopped tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, green onion, parsley, basil, dill, and/or black pepper.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why My New Romance Novel Got a Makeover

Okay, here's the scoop. I wrote a fantasy romance novel that I titled The Omaja Stone (a title I really liked) and had my graphic designer do a specially-designed cover. I had all these great ideas about how I wanted the images to look: put the heroine in the center, I told her, with the Omaja stone (a blue stone) on a cord around her neck. The hero is a twin, so put the twins on either side of her, one in the light and one in shadow, wearing their assassin armor and cloaks. Oh, and make the background kind of medieval and creepy looking. (Sounds cool, right?)

She designed it exactly as I had pictured it, and I was thrilled with the results. (Scroll down to see the original book cover.)

You hear a "but" coming, right?

The book has been out for two months, and its sales just haven't picked up like I was expecting, so I started reading books and watching webinars about launching novels, getting sales, getting reviews, etc. Eventually I ended up on Jim Kukral's Youtube channel, and watched this webinar about selling books on Amazon. Something he said hit me between the eyes: there should be no confusion at all with the title and cover of a book--people must instantly get it. The example he used was a theoretical book called "The Wake." From the title alone, he said, it's hard to tell what kind of book it is. Is it a thriller? Is it a book about people waking up? Is it about water and boats? He said that if people don't immediately understand as soon as they see the book, they move on, so his suggestion with a title like "The Wake" was to add a subtitle such as "A Thriller."

Anyway, as I took notes on his webinar, I realized that The Omaja Stone didn't look or sound like what it really is, a medieval fantasy romance novel, and that it probably wasn't attracting the eye of my target audience--mainstream historical romance fans.

So I started brainstorming more romance-y sounding titles and went back to my cover designer to rework the images, and she produced the awesome new Kiss of the Assassin cover you see above. And as much as I loved my old title and cover, I have to admit, if I were browsing on Amazon, I myself would be way more likely to buy the book above than the book below. And not because it isn't an attractive cover, but because I wouldn't be 100% sure what I was going to be reading.

Original title and cover

So there you have it. I'm excited to see how the title and cover changes will affect sales. This is all a pretty fun experiment for me, learning how to publish and market my own books.

And by the way, Kiss of the Assassin is on a free promo this weekend (June 9-13) so if you like romance, grab a free download of it, and then let me know what you thought by leaving a review on Amazon!

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