I really love to read. I also really, really love to eat and the two end up coinciding frequently. I believe I obsessed over The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon while cuddling one of those giant cardboard boxes of Goldfish Crackers. I pretty much devoured both.
Considering a book can be paired with a snack like you can pair a wine with a fancy cheese, I thought it would be fun to try something new over here. I’ve done food recipe reviews and I’ve done book reviews, but never at the same time. So, let’s read and eat.
For me, Jennifer Weiner novels are a comfort food and a sweet indulgence, all at once. They are the quintessential beach reads, but also perfect for a cozy night in with a cup of tea and some sort of baked good. I think The Next Best Thing pairs very nicely with these warm, blueberry oatmeal muffins that are also indulgent, but from the Cooking Light website aren’t quite a guilty-pleasure. The paperback copy of The Next Best Thing was part of my Mother’s Day gift from Mr. Sunny – thanks babe, love you!
I’ve long been a Jennifer Weiner fan, and my bookshelf serves nicely as evidence. Any time I read multiple books by an author, over time, I always connect more with some books than others. Among an author’s complete works, some books just feel fresher, sweeter, and more true to the writer as well as the topic. This is one of those books. Not since Little Earthquakes Everywhere (yes, my all-time favorite by Weiner) have I enjoyed one of her novels so much.
Ruth provides a new perspective, with a new set of challenges than the usual characters within Weiner’s books, or the genre for that matter. Like Little Earthquakes, it had light and funny moments and yet still retained a poignancy and insight into some very real hardships for women in our lives. The one note that fell a little funny for me were the antagonist supporting-characters. While Ruth is easy to love and can be the underdog you truly hope to see succeed, the starlets felt hollow and very much like the Hollywood stereotypes I’m accustomed to. Then again, Jennifer has been in real Hollywood and I haven’t – so maybe those stereotypes are more tackily true that I want to believe.
Speaking of Hollywood, when I read the Q&A and made the connection between Jennifer Weiner’s similar experience and the novel, I almost wished I had stayed in the dark. The storyline felt so original and effortless to sink into, I wanted to preserve it that way in my mind and not begin comparing it to any real-life drama. So, don’t Google it too fast, okay? The novel’s insight into the television-pitch process is fascinating enough, I promise.
Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins by Cooking Light
The original draw of this recipe was to find a healthy-ish addition to my kid’s school lunches and snacks that they would still find tasty. You know, they made a pretty tasty snack for myself as well! Warm out of the oven, the blueberries work well with the heartier density of the oatmeal and wheat flour, so don’t skimp on the berries. I make it a point to follow a recipe to a T the first time I make it, and tried to do the same here. The only change is that where the original recipe recommends using all-purpose flour and wheat flour separately, I went ahead and used “white wheat flour” for both amounts – it’s what I had on hand and I was in a bit of a hurry.
The batter comes out thin, but the muffins come out surprisingly springy and filling. The lemon zest was pretty crucial, I found – it added a fresher taste that kept the muffins from feeling too heavy, and made them smell divine. They don’t have the lightness and sweet bliss of more indulgent, bakery-style muffins so keep in mind that to add that healthy quality, sometimes you have to adjust your expectations a bit. Still, I’ll be making them again.
Anyone else believe that zest can be like the glue that holds the recipe together? Read Jennifer Weiner’s latest release? Eat those goldfish crackers shamelessly straight out of the giant box?
PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.