Quinoa-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Hi everyone. So sorry I’ve been missing from here since before Mother’s Day. I managed a few posts at my alter-ego’s site, but even that’s been a tad sparse. End of the school year–which wrapped up on 6/23–got a touch busy. I’m already fully in our extended school year and that will take me through to the end of July. Then there’s tennis to keep one busy in between…

So Hubby’s garden has been far ahead of schedule this year—typically by now, he’d be harvesting a few zucchini blossoms and hoping to see a zucch or two beginning to form. Pumpkin flowers usually follow a few weeks later and an actual pumpkin doesn’t form until far later in the month.

Uh…not this year, folks.

zucch blossoms

Every morning brings the same question: where am I going to store all these blossoms? We’ve got them coming in like crazy from zucchini, yellow squash AND pumpkin plants. (That doesn’t include the multitude of zucchini I’ve been giving away–Hubby picked five yesterday afternoon. Maybe it’s the Miracle Gro he treats everything with faithfully. And perhaps I should get a permit for a roadside stand and sell them, lol. Even at $13/lb (or whatever the going rate is), it’s quite the return on the buyer’s dollar, lol. ;)

Anyway, the other night I made a platter of fritters to send to my neighbor’s. I still had some blossoms left to play with—the pumpkin variety, which are at least as big as my hand. These babies beg to be stuffed. (Had them with a ricotta filling for the first time last year—OMG. Just sayin’.)

pumpkin blossom-zoom

Luckily, I lacked ricotta, nor was I in the mood to get into that kind of fat and calorie count. I did, however, have cooked quinoa sitting in the fridge. (Quinoa is my new favorite ‘carb.’)

Hmmm.

I searched a few recipes, started here and wound up concocting something of my own.

Here we go. (Sorry, all amounts are approximates. I made this up as I went. Posted the finished product on Facebook and someone (Hi, Deb!)  asked for the recipe. I did my best to oblige!) :)

6-8 intact blossoms (I always remove the stem and pistol or stamen—the part inside the center at the flower’s base—male or female flower, respectively.)

For the filling:

½- ¾ cup cooked quinoa (I had flavored mine with olive oil, a spoonful of butter, parsley and garlic salt)

¼- ½ cup of bread crumbs* (or crushed pre-seasoned stuffing cubes/mix)

Fresh parsley and/or basil (as much or as little as you like)

Grated cheese (I used a mix of romano and parmesan)

Feta cheese (to taste—maybe a ¼ cup?)

Salt and black (pepper to taste)

A squeeze or so of lemon–optional (something tells me this will all work nicely together)

A (table)spoonful of chia seeds–also optional, but why not bump up the fiber and protein count some more?

Mix all the above together and set aside. (If you include the bread crumbs, sauté everything except the basil in hot oil. Stir in basil after the mixture has cooled a bit.

Note: Making the filling a day ahead will increase the flavor big-time.

For the batter:

½- ¾ cup of flour

Grated cheese

Chopped parsley and/or basil (to taste)

Salt and/or pepper (to taste)

½ tsp baking powder (optional)

Water

1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium to large bowl. Add water, enough to create a creamy, thin (but not watery) pancake-like batter. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. The mixture should be similar to a tempura batter.

Carefully fill each blossom with a spoonful or two of the quinoa mixture. Fold the flower closed as best you can. Dip and roll it in the batter. Pan-fry in hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

quinoa-stuffed zucch blossoms

These are best served immediately but are fine a little while later (i.e., several hours). I wouldn’t make these a day ahead. They’ll be heavy and oily.

*I plan on eliminating bread crumbs next time, to keep the carb count down. Don’t think you really need them.

And for dessert…

ooey-gooey choc chips

More to these than meets the eye, and fodder for a future post.

Have a great day and enjoy those special summer delicacies while they last!

Joanna

How do you do Point of View?

Happy Cinco de Mayo, folks. Hope those celebrating are doing so in a fun (and safe) fashion! Since tequila makes me sleepy, I’ll indulge in a virtual strawberry daiquiri instead. ;)

Several weeks ago I happened on Tips When Writing Multiple POVs at Writers Helping Writers. This very helpful article got my writer’s-side-of-the-brain’s-synapses snapping, and this post was born. Thanks to Angela Ackerman and her guest blogger, Lisa Gail Green for allowing me to quote directly.

Since I tend to be wordy (No!!! Really???  ;) ), I figured I’d challenge myself to one (or three) sentences for my thoughts on each of the areas—shown in quotations—that Lisa covered in her post:

“Understand each character’s goals, stakes, and pitfalls”: When I don’t overthink, hang in long enough and just write the danged scene(s), the nuances of that POV character’s goals, motivation(s) and conflict (GMC, from here on) begin to reveal themselves. Every round of editing helps me see more.

“Don’t redo the same scene from multiple POVs”: Every now and again there’s a call to do so—in a ‘scene and sequel’ format that SHOULD forward the plot. At ‘big’ moments involving both POV characters, I’ve ended the scene in one character’s POV, but opened up the next chapter picking up (almost) where I left off from the other’s perspective.

“Have a reason a particular chapter is in a particular point of view”: This goes back to the basics: GMC. Often, the character who has more ‘at stake’ in a given scene gets the POV honors. Try working the scene from the other POV character’s perspective if you’re not sure—about to do that with a scene of my own.

“Ground the reader as soon as each switch takes place”: I love Virginia Kantra’s technique of “zooming” the lens deep into one character’s POV, “pulling away” then honing back in deep, but in the other character’s perspective. The Wild Rose Press, who trad-pubbed my debut novel, kept it simple: Jessica thought… or something similar.

“If you’re still unsure whether you should undertake a multiple POV manuscript, try it out and see how it feels”: Trying my hand (for the first time) at four POVs in my current WIP . Wish me luck!

Do you agree with the Lisa’s tips? Is POV a challenge or just come easy for you? Which POV do you like to write in?

For more talk on the topic, here’s a great article on self-editing by Rachel E. Newman at The Book Designer.

Have a great week,

Joanna

©Joanna Aislinn, all rights reserved, 2015.

 

 

 

Fan-Fiction or Handbook to ‘Die For’? BOTH!!!

Hi everyone. I’m keeping busy and getting very excited about some upcoming stuff I’ve been looking forward to. Since I was raised with Italian superstitions, I’ll talk about them after the fact. Hope all of you are well.

SSXpedition FINAL

Those of you who are kind enough to follow and read all my posts are most likely sick of me discussing ‘reviews’ at authors’ blogs. When online author-pal PJ Reece asked me to give his (then pre-) released book a look-see prior to it going live at Amazon, I had to say yes.

Why? B/c I’d already read–and loved and internalized–this book’s predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I also enjoy PJ’s blog articles, so I had a very strong inkling I was going to get somethin’ real good out of PJ’s latest work.

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY by author PJ Reece is (to me) a fan-fiction based on Joseph Conrad’s classic novel, HEART OF DARKNESS. The author sets himself up as protagonist while his writer takes him through his story journey (i.e., character arc) via a Congo River expedition, based on the events of Conrad’s novel.

I found PJ’s hundred-page essay (as he referred to it) VERY entertaining. Had I paid attention in high school and read Heart of Darkness, I might have related even better to PJ’s work. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed his excellent command of language and writing skills; his wit and humor, as well as the story journey. PJ also challenged and put me in a position to expand my vocabulary: I looked up many words via the electronic dictionary built into Kindle’s app.

This is what you’ll be reading: (from PJ’s protagonist’s “writer’s” ‘synopsis’): story fanatic commissions a tin-pot steamer to retrace Marlow’s journey up the Congo into terra incognita. Our protagonist imagines a series of instructive dispatches along the way, scenes that portray the river as a metaphor for every story’s journey to the story heart.

So: Author takes story structure, sets himself as narrator, and becomes the protagonist being thrust into the throws of story structure. He discusses how the writer’s job is to “love her protagonist to death”—death to the protagonist’s belief system and the inexplicable freedom from having “died” to one’s self. (On pp 50-51 you’ll find a lively “discourse” between author and his “writer.” Every now and again, he revisits their ‘relationship,’ typically to question what the heck she’s putting him through.)

Same story structure mechanics told a different way? Perhaps, but PJ puts a spin on it that I related to and seem to be digesting and/or internalizing readily.

IMHO, the brilliance of PJ’s essay is how he nestles simple and straightforward story mechanics into excellent, highly useful tips to writers during his metaphorical expedition. I took copious notes and highlighted like crazy as I read. I hear PJ’s words resonating as I work on my current WIP, nudging and guiding my protagonist toward his own awakening. (Trust me, my  guy has a LOT to learn.  ;)

STORY STRUCTURE EXPEDITION: JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE STORY is a refreshing companion/follow-up to its predecessor, STORY STRUCTURE TO DIE FOR. I can’t imagine any writer won’t be a better writer after having read either (or both) of these works.

All It’s Cracked Up to Be

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “All It’s Cracked Up to Be.”

Recently I taught a workshop/professional development to the pre-k teachers with whom I work (or have worked) directly for many years. As someone who is looking to get into public speaking on a regular basis, I welcome–and seek–opportunities such as this.

At first I felt overwhelmed while drafting the workshop, especially since I had only a small window in which to prepare. I took a step back, trusted what I know and started putting down ideas. Once those were down, organizing them into a PowerPoint was easy.

I presented simple, practical, very easy-to-incorporate strategies to support the theories. I used my experience in a no-nonsense, try-not-to-overthink-this manner, so that teachers wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by all the info I shared. They were kindly responsive and seemed to get what I was showing them. Not only did all go VERY well, they were pleased with getting out almost 45 minutes early om a Friday afternoon.

Thanks for this prompt, Michelle W! :)

Unorthodox Passover 2015

Joanna Aislinn:

Hope everyone enjoyed a peaceful and fun holiday weekend. We celebrated Easter at my brother’s. Had I known about the interesting mix at Stacey’s house, I might have invited myself. ;) Her post was just too fun NOT to share so…enjoy!

Originally posted on Stacey Wilk:

Passover 2015

I don’t like people telling me what to do. Often times, I’ll do the opposite just to prove a point. Probably not one of my better features, but hey, we can’t all be perfect. Since we’re an Interfaith family we like to make up the rules on how to observe our faiths as we go along. The Coffee King doesn’t like to be told what to do either. We’re a good match.

One of the things I’m most proud of is our Unorthodox Passover. That simply means, I serve whatever suits me, usually the catered Passover meal from Wegmans and whatever appetizers and desserts I want. You bet I’m making chocolate cake with flour. No offense, to my Jewish friends out there, but your food is plain old yukky and I say that with love. But who really eats gefilte fish? Have you seen that stuff? When our guests ask what…

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The Last Book I Wasn’t Crazy For But Read Anyway

Welcome to the fourth week of March, everyone. Finally, spring is upon us! I have been ‘snow done’ for a while now; I was definitely done with polar cold before it started, but temps in my area are supposed to hover just above or below freezing all week :(  ). Give me the dog days of summer anytime over the chilly weather.

Nabby 03-2015 My pretty li’l Mauer McNabb always keeps me company when I’m working in the kitchen.  

Last time, I was inspired to write by suspense/thriller author Carrie Rubin, who was inspired by the ever-awesome Kristen Lamb. The discussion: Should an author publish book reviews?

In my previous post, I referred to a story I had just finished. Because I prefer to keep my ‘thoughts’ on books positive—I don’t refer to them as ‘reviews’ anymore. My ideas and/or issues are pretty subjective, thus making them MHO. One is welcome to take what s/he likes and leave the rest. ;)

Back to MHO on my most recent read. The author’s declared mainstay occupation is NOT writing, but another creative outlet, in which she is reportedly well-established. The story is inspired and built around her ‘day job.’ It pubbed traditionally by a Big-Five publisher in 2010. As an ‘author,’ my snarky side keeps asking, “Why?”

Not sure if the external plot (a.k.a., the ‘story’) or the characters kept me holding on, but something did.

The writing? Eh. Obviously, GCP thought more of it than I did.

I thought about emailing the author my issues. I’ve done so before re: other books—always as gently and kindly as I know how. I’ve never received a response from any author whenever I went there—most recently from someone who offered a book in exchange for a review. I really tried, but I couldn’t finish the book. I wrote the author’s rep and stated my reasons why—exactly what the rep asked me to do if I ran into ‘problems’ that would impact my review. Not even a ‘thank you.’

I realized most authors are not interested in my take on what their book(s) should be.

Guess what? That. Is. Okay. Saves me a lot of time writing emails loaded with editing notes and constructive criticism no one asked for in the first place. ;)

Back to Book-on-the-‘Hot Spot’:

What I liked:

(1) High-energy and fast-paced. With the exception of a back-story/flashback dump (or two), the plot held my interest and moved forward at a decent pace.

(2) Likable, interesting, well-flawed, relatable and highly human characters.

What turned me off to the point I WON’T write a ‘review’:

(1)  The author used a plethora of foreign-language words and didn’t italicize any of them. A minor issue, true, but ‘dems da rules,” right? IDK, it just turned me off, especially for a trad-pubbed, Big-Five novel.

(2) The author’s loose use of point of view (POV). Head-hopping, POVs assigned to whomever was reacting to the goings-on in a given scene, rather than sticking to the three lead characters. At times the author waxed omniscient. (That’s pretty much the exact opposite of deep POV, which I happen to love. The awesome Virginia Kantra has some great articles on POV at her website. Check them out—just scroll down the page.)

(2) The author infused a contemporary story with her love of movies. She referenced them in EACH character’s point of view (POV). Why is that an issue? I’m a product of the era of those movies, and I’m thinking the author is too. Her characters were far too young to think of themselves relative to the comparisons she used. Also would every one of them think in terms of movies? Far as I’ve learned, POV is supposed to distinguish one character’s voice from another.

(3) The author used the movie references repeatedly, typically as one “like” simile after another. Either I got more sensitive to it or she added more and more of them as the story progressed. Not only did it get old and gimmicky and sounded like “telling”, it got to the point where the similes felt random and not connected to the story. (NCIS’s “Tony DiNozzo,”—played by Michael Weatherly who looks the part of a classic movie star—is a movie buff. Tony is rarely sans a ready movie reference, but it always connects to his character AND the episode’s plot.)

(4) Lastly, I think I started paying less attention towards the end of the book, but I believe the author started introducing quotes, characters and themes at the “finale.” Forgive my snobbish attitude, but I’ve learned (via Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering) that adding new information after the second plot point and/or climax is a bit of a no-no.

Do I sound resentful b/c this writer got a big opportunity from a big-name publisher? I suppose I do, but considering I haven’t submitted anything in several years makes me think that’s not the case. (I like the indie idea better anyway.) IDK, but all the things that turned me off make me wonder why a Big-Five pubbed novel wasn’t held to a much higher standard. Just sayin’.

Have I become a reading snob? Maybe, but I’m older. My attention span and tolerance ain’t what they were eleven years ago, when I started on my writer’s journey. I’ve read a lot—I still read quite a bit. I am also more educated and experienced in writing and editing, which kills my tolerance for this kind of stuff that much more.  Sad that a really good—but not necessarily established—indie writer might not get the chance the author/celebrity of nameless book got.

So what’s my point in these long-winded pages? Maybe sharing what makes me crazy in a book can help someone else refine their skills on their authors’ journeys. Maybe I just felt like complaining about the book without bashing the author and making her or myself look bad. IDK—what say you?

Enjoy the week!

Joanna