YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart



Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

Jenny’s Dad’s 1-Ingredient Vegan Burger

Healthy Vegan Lentil Burger Recipe by Cynthia PortWritten by Cynthia Port

I write what I know, and since I know me and I write humor, my books make fun of all the ridiculous facets of me.  The facet I’ll tell you about today is my relationship with healthy eating.  I know . . . what could possibly be funny about that?  But trust me, following this food lifestyle gets ridiculous faster than eating purple cabbage will turn your pee pink.

All my life I’ve been a foodie; I love to cook and plan meals.  For the past 4 years I’ve been a gluten free vegan foodie cooking almost entirely from scratch. This of course had to make it into my books, which it did, in the form of the dad of a protagonist.  He doesn’t even have a name, actually – so far he’s just “Jenny’s Dad”.  A confirmed health nut, he runs the “Incredible Bulk” co-op, its shelves stocked with bags and boxes of powdered and freeze dried foodstuffs that would be really good for you if you could somehow convince yourself to eat it.  His favorite after school snack to make for poor Jenny is rice cakes with partially melted “not-cheese” globs, washed down with carob un-milk.  And did I mention the “Just the Flax” crackers made with flax seeds, flax germ, flax meal, puffed flax and essence of flax? Nom nom!

In the spirit of Jenny’s dad, here’s a recipe that sounds pretty terrible, but is actually really, really delicious.  With only ONE, all natural, whole food ingredient, you can serve it to all of your food challenged friends without worry.  Actually, that one ingredient is just the base.  To that you will add whatever spices and flavorings you desire.  Add Mexican spice and you’ve got a crispy, protein and fiber-rich taco filling.  Add Italian spices and make up some vegballs for your spaghetti.  Cook up some patty shapes and then crisp them up on the grill at your next backyard get-together (but bring some extras because everybody will be curious to try one!).  Once cooked, they freeze beautifully.  Here we go!


Healthy Vegan Lentil Burger Recipe by Cynthia Port1 cup Urad Lentils (small, black-skinned lentils available in any Indian grocery store or on-line.) You can get them with or without the skins, but the skins do add some flavor.  Okay, I admit, this is a weird ingredient, but it’s el cheapo and it’s also the only required ingredient, so CHEF-UP AND FIND IT!!

PREPARATION: Soak the lentils in water for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  While they are soaking, read all about how amazing urad lentils really are:

After soaking, drain the lentils in a colander and scoop a generous third of them into a food processor.  Add ¼ cup water and grind till you get a fluffy paste (3-4 minutes).  Add another third of the lentils and another ¼ cup water and grind for 1 minute.  Add the remaining lentils and grind for just a few seconds.  Having lentils that are fully ground, partially ground, and whole gives the patties more texture and crunch.

Water amounts vary depending on how long you soaked and how thoroughly you drained, so it’s hard to give an exact amount, but use enough water till the thickness of the mixture is somewhere between peanut butter and chocolate pudding.

That’s it!  Now just stir in salt and spices.  I use 3/4 tsp salt and a teaspoon of paprika (for coloring). For Indian flavor, add curry powder (or a mix of cumin, coriander, black pepper, red pepper, turmeric).  For Italian, add dried basil, oregano, black pepper and garlic powder.  For Mexican, use chili powder, cumin, oregano and black pepper.  There’s no raw animal products in here, so feel free to taste as you go until you get the spiciness you want.

Heat a nonstick skillet (I use cast iron because, again, health nut) to medium high and add oil (canola or coconut is great).  Drop batter into the pan and watch how it sets up like magic as it cooks (because lentils actually are magic). Cook on the first side till nicely browned and crispy, then flip, adding more oil if you need it.  Use about a 1/3 cup for veggie burgers, smoothing into a patty shape.  Drop by the teaspoon for vegballs and do not flatten.  For taco filling, make thin patties and then slice them up into fajita strips when they are done, tossing on extra Mexican spices just before serving.

That’s it!  Now go make some.  Jenny’s dad will be so proud of you, and your body will be grateful for all the anti-oxidants and fiber!


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