Blueberry Pudding Cake

Guys. GUYS. We have a huge winner. A rousing success. A simple, delicious, throw together summer dessert that leaves families fighting over the cake pan as soon as it’s cool enough to touch. I knew from the minute I saw this cake on Shutterbean that I had to recreate it. It took three tries, but each one was even better than the last, and from the beginning this cake has flown out of the pan, inhaled by my family. Team Johnson could not get enough. The latest version, paired with a sumptuous vanilla ice cream recipe from Simply Bites, is the best yet. It screams summer dessert – easy, bursting with fresh berries, and perfect with a scoop of ice cream on a warm summer night.
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Frazzled Scallops & Sauteed Mushrooms

I don’t know what it is about traveling. I love it, of course. But there is a small, homebody part of me that can get stressed out – aka frazzled, in Team Johnson vocabulary – about the actual traveling. I’m not afraid of flying or anything like that, and I’ve been traveling alone for quite some time. I’m not sure why leaving my nest gives me a little flutter of underlying anxiety (god help my future college-age children if I’m a ball of nerves about myself).

Of course, as if I didn’t have enough to prepare for a multi-week, cross-ocean trip – including food for a 12 hour plane ride since United is too silly to provide gluten-free meals! – I like to use big trips as a deadline for achieving stuff around the house: clearing out clutter, seeing friends that I have been too “busy” to connect with in the past month, even creating future recipes. And when I say “like”, I mean, this is an old habit that I fall back on in times of stress, which only makes me more stressed out. Makes perfect sense right? You’ve got a lot on your plate, so you might as well add some more! Eeesh…Really I should be doing these things a little bit at a time, day by day, getting energy-draining or clutter-clearing tasks done immediately. I’m slowly improving on this habit, but I do have a long way to go.

Continue reading

First Guest Post: Blueberry Avocado Smoothie!

The other day I was searching for an email my brother had sent me and I typed “Joe radish” into the search bar. We tend to like the same sorts of food – and by like I mean rave like addicts – such as grilled vegetables, coconut anything, and of course sweet potatoes. We email at least 4 times a week, and a majority of those emails are about food. I love having a person in my life who gets as excited about making and sharing food as I do. I mean, how often do you pair a person’s name with a vegetable in your search bar? I thought I’d share a few of our missives first before moving on to this gorgeous, quick and easy recipe, perfect for an energy-packed breakfast or afternoon pick-me-up.

it’s go time

Kate:
ahhhhhhhhhhhh your produce box makes me so jealous!!!! salad and green smoothie every week, holla. and KALE. oh momma kale…

***

Joe: got some beef stew meat. What veggies should I put in it?
Kate: Hmm beef stew…sweet potatoes. Traditional is carrots, potatoes, peas. I think any kind of root veggie would be great: rutabegas, parsnips, acorn squash, butternut squash. Butternut squash! That would be really good. Spring onions. Garlic? I can’t think of any American produce right now….some sort of spinach or spinach family…Chard! No , kale. KALE.
***
Kate: Yeah if you could post it that would be great! You can also put your website up there too and get your name out. Btw, are you friends with civilized caveman on facebook????!!!!

Joe: yes walter yes
***
Joe: also, thought you would like my eating adventures… went to yoga first thing this morning and then was having a hungry day.  breakfast was:

9 over easy eggs
2/3 bag baby spinach
2 GF bagels with almond butter and sliced strawberries and banana
1 apple
handful baby carrots

was surprised by the quantity, but I think it was partially because I had a hungry day yesterday too and never quite satisfied the hunger…

Kate:
I do enjoy hearing about your eating adventures. What kind of GF bagels do you get? probably an extra hungry day from all the travel and whatnot. I can’t believe you eat an average of 7-9 eggs! and he’s roughly the size of a barge! Gastoooooooooon….

***
Joe:
today I made pecan-encrusted and walnut-encrusted chicken, and I think it is my new favorite thing.  I also want to try it with hazelnuts and try nut+salmon.  I also roasted my first kabocha squash!
Kate:
AHHH SO HUNGRY TODAY.but those nut encrusted things sound sooo delicious, esp the salmon right now. do you add any other spices? I’m feeling some nutmeg with those hazelnuts, but just a dash. also have you tried herbamare?  its really good
SQUAAAAAAAAAAAASH. I’m buying an oven with my next paycheck. roasting here I come…ps I am drinking this tea called “healthy tea” (or herushii, as the japanese say) and it has carrots, reishi, orange peel, some other random stuff I dont know, but it is for my “Beauty Feeling”. what a country
***

As you can see, my brother does most of the intelligent communication – asking questions, telling stories, sharing recipes and brainstorming ideas. I usually respond with emphatic capitalization of the foods I want to eat in that very moment. Can you turn vegetables into an onomatopoeia? One amazing oversight is that I haven’t included any of the other 10,000 emails where we use the word awesome repeatedly. But having someone like Joe to share food adventures, questions, and inspiration with is nothing short of awesome and awe-inspiring. I’m incredibly lucky to have him as a friend, role model, and brother. And we’re lucky that he is sharing his smoothie-making magic with us today! This guy is a wonder at the juicer, blender, and grill:
Blueberry Avocado Smoothies, by Joe Johnson of Feeling Terrific

Rushing to work and don’t have time to make a big breakfast? Need a summer cool-down but don’t want to reach for ice cream or sno-cones? Just want to experience the fantastic flavors of your favorite fruits and vegetables blended together? Green smoothies to the rescue!
I personally have a smoothie for breakfast every workday. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and I can enjoy it on the road while driving to work. I pack my smoothies full of fruit, greens, and healthy fats to keep me satiated and steady all morning.This version starts with blueberries, my favorite of fruits. I usually get frozen wild blueberries at Trader Joe’s, which remind me of picking blueberries with Kate near our grandparents’ house.

I made another version that used cucumber instead of blueberries – SO GOOD

Coconut milk was a staple in my smoothies until I discovered something better: avocado!
Avocado is an under-used smoothie ingredient that makes any drink incredibly creamy.
Start adding ¼-1/2 an avocado to your smoothies and I guarantee you’ll never go back!
The healthy fats keep my blood sugar stable and keep me full all morning – no crashes like after donuts or coffee.

I throw a handful of greens into my smoothies to give me extra energy and vitamins. Amazingly, they blend right in and you don’t even taste them. I usually use red or green kale, but swiss chard or spinach work well too.

Top your smoothie off with a superfood like raw cacao powder, maca, ground flax seeds,
or chia seeds, and you’ll truly have a breakfast of champions! This version includes chia
seeds, which become awesomely gelatinous and interesting when soaked overnight.

Blueberry-Avocado Smoothies

1 cup frozen blueberries (organic, if possible)
½ ripe avocado
Handful red kale
1 T chia seeds soaked overnight in ½ cup water
2 cups water (add more for a thinner consistency)
(optional) few drops stevia for added sweetness

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour and enjoy!

Makes one Joe-sized breakfast, or two large smoothies.

with avocado and a dash of lime

***
I really enjoy kale in my green smoothies as well, but since you can’t get kale here in Japan (yet) I used komatsuna, which is a less-bitter cousin to fully-grown spinach. I recommend using baby spinach in green smoothies for it’s milder flavor. If you want to try regular spinach, I suggest steaming them first. Or you can make a silky green soup for another fantastic way to pack in greens during mealtimes! But back to smoothies, I totally agree about the fun texture of soaked chia seeds. It reminds me of the bubble tea that everyone used to go crazy for in college. I never liked it (too sweet, amazingly), but it always looked like fun to eat.

soaked chia seeds

So dive in to some great smoothie combinations and let us know what you think! I’ll leave you with one last email….
Kate:
AWESOME BREAKFAST THIS MORNING. I put my xmas meal leftovers into a cabbage wrap~ one was sunflower seed spread with tomatoes, avocado, roasted cauliflower, and sprouts. The other was mashed spiced sweets [sweet potatoes], balsamic chicken, perfect onions, and a pickled fig. Trying to do a new blog post on squash and vegetables, but my recent pictures arent uploading and I just formatted my camera! augh, distracting myself with  a snack of half a roasted sweet [potato] too. and I:m going home to make more chestnut soup!

did you find a suitable blender in MI? made some fresh almond milk last night, havent done that in a while and it was delish.

I LOVE FOOD
are you scheming? [skiing]

***
Joe: I like how we seem to be making similar diet changes independently…

Kate: well, auntie patty told me they used to say we had our own language. maybe its food-based
***

Oh. It definitely is.

***
Joined the awesome bandwagon at Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend July 5-9
Happily submitted to Fit & Fabulous Fridays #39

Traveler’s Chicken

It’s my dream to wind my way through North Africa and the Middle East – Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, maybe Afghanistan – and stuff myself. That’s right – an eating adventure. I rave about any sort of food from that region, tagines with lemony chicken and olives, lamb and rich, tomato-y vegetables, (gluten-free) couscous with dried apricots, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, baba ghannouj, foul mudammes, and every single amazing vegetable dish that highlights the most glorious food group in the land. And hummus, my god hummus! I could sing it’s praises for an entire week straight.
One of the reasons I want to travel to the Middle East is to experience a new culture of food – one that emphasizes sharing, hospitality, and time spent with loved ones. Not that we don’t do that in America and the West, but entire cultures and societies are built around giving plenty of time and space for meals, something that is not as prioritized in America. I not only want to eat but also learn from home cooks wherever I travel. Learning new tricks in the kitchen is what binds us together as humans. We’ve been cooking and sharing together for thousands of years – passing tips, secret family recipes, and simply sharing our knowledge with the next generation. Cooking with another person makes everything more enjoyable – the work seems easier, the food tastes better, and the cleanup is by far much more pleasantly spent in the company of others.

After a weekend of cooking – but don’t worry, this chicken only dirties one pan!!!

Until the day when I can fulfill my tabe-travel dreams (taberu is the verb for eat in Japanese), I’ll contently stuff myself with this roast chicken. One of the benefits of living alone is that sometimes you don’t have to share! A whole chicken will last me about a week – shredded into tacos or stir-frys, stirred into soups, a balanced way to complete a salad, etc. You can find me many a weekend gnawing on a leg like a shameless prize-eater because 1. I love chicken and 2. I have no one to impress at my breakfast table. Continue reading

Sumo Carrot Cake

So I went rice planting, and I  came home and made….carrot cake. Not the most logical conclusion, until you realize the secret ingredient: sumo wrestling in a rice paddy.

I live in a relatively rural community, surrounded by gentle, rolling fields of sprightly green rice shoots and plenty of opportunities to buy fresh, seasonal vegetables at farmer’s markets. I couldn’t be happier to be living here, and I was over the moon when I had the chance to actually get down and dirty and help grow a little food rather than just eat it. I always have greater satisfaction enjoying meals that I know I worked hard for – whether it’s going for a long run or testing the murky waters of crop sowing.

Planting rice involves inserting a clump of three rice seeds into a cross-section etched into the muddy bottom of a paddy. This involves a lot of stooping and mucking in gooey, shin-deep mud with the consistency of thick brownie batter. At times it was difficult to free my foot from the mud to move forward in my planting row, and certain noises resembling body functions resulted. It turns out that fart jokes transcend cross-cultural divides. Bobbing up and down across the field was fun for a few hours, but doing it day in and day out would be the epitome of backbreaking. Now most farms use a tractor to plant fields in a snap, but occasionally they will put on group events get back to the spirit of an agricultural community.

Shared work is a great way to bring different types of people together and celebrate something we all have in common: a love of good food. Our post-planting lunch included freshly-picked spring vegetables, so sweet and clean that they required no extra dressing for the salad. Some people also ate onigiri, rice balls, made from last year’s rice harvest. Following the planting were some celebratory outdoor events –  first the members of the farm co-op treated us to a traditional flute concert. It was an idyllic setting that I imagine would come out of a movie – sweet, reedy flutes, gentle, iconic spring breeze, all basked in the warmth of an emerging summer sun.

It was an idyllic setting – broken by a bunch of young people thrashing about in the mud. The second event was dorozumo, which I have decided is Japanese for mudwrestling. Loosely following the rules of sumo, competitors wade into a yet unplanted paddy and try their best to avoid being thrown in the mud and, in turn, throw their competitor. I was one of two people willing to compete in the women’s division, and I basically won out of desperation. I hadn’t thought to bring a change of clothes, so if I were to loose I’d be stuck as a mudsicle for the rest of the day. We had one of the best matches, a long bout with lots of splashing and hugging in the end. So my shirt got muddy all the same, but for good reason.

And my prize as “sumo queen”, as one man dubbed me? A bottle of homemade carrot juice. Juice on it’s own ramps up my blood sugar a bit too much, so I decided to capitalize on an idea from Gluten Free Girl’s second cookbook, Gluten Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Recipes, by Shauna James and Danny Ahern. Their recipe for carrot cake calls for a carrot juice reduction with some added spices thrown in. By the time this homemade stuff had simmered down to a puree consistency, I was ready to dive in headfirst, heedless of my spare clothes situation. The heady fragrance of cinnamon and nutmeg was much more tempting than crayfish and tadpole-filled mud. I restrained myself to “taste-testing” a few spoonfuls, and the rest got put into the cake.

The cake base comes from Elana’s Pantry. The recipe is on her website here, so please go check out all the incredibly simple and stunningly delicious recipes she has to offer. Next to her instructions are my substitutions and adaptations, but I want to make sure she gets all the credit!

before heading into the oven

If you have the chance to participate in any sort of community-based agriculture (shared gardens, field trips to local farms, heck even a chance at beekeeping), I really encourage you to try it out. It is a fun way to get involved with your food; if you don’t have much motivation to cook, you’ll probably take more pride in harvesting and cooking something you grew. You may also wind up creating a whole new dish, surprising yourself with what you can create through unusual circumstances.

Through this event, I also found out that CSAs do exist in Japan! CSAs are a chance for consumers to buy food directly from a farmer, giving the buyer an opportunity to truly know where there food comes from and also support their local community. I now look forward to my delivery of the freshest, pesticide-free, truly “organic” food each week, and I can’t wait to go back and harvest our rice crop in the fall.

Elana’s Pantry Carrot Cake, with “sumo” adaptations by Kate
  • 3 cups blanched almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons celtic sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 eggs                                                       4 eggs
  • ½ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 3 cups carrots, grated                               2 cups grated carrots + 3/4 c carrot puree
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup walnuts
  1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, agave and oil
  3. Stir carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry
  5. Place batter into 2 well greased, round 9-Inch cake pans
  6. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes
  7. Cool to room temperature and spread with coconut cream frosting
  8. Serve

For the carrot puree:

Start with 3 cups of fresh carrot juice. The juice will not reduce well if it is frozen. Add one star anise, a stick of cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg to the juice in a saucepan. Simmer over very low heat until the puree becomes an applesauce-like consistency. This took about 35 minutes, but my gas stove is very quick about these things and the homemade juice I had was already slightly thick. You can make the carrot puree ahead of time. Make sure to remove the whole spices before adding it back into the cake batter!

Part of Diet, Dessert & Dog’s Wellness Weekend May 31 – June 4th

Also Simply Sugar & Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 6/4

Crockpot Bison Stew

Do you ever wish you could come home after a long day and dinner would magically appear and be waiting for you? Let’s make that dream a reality. Introducing…the slow cooker. I grew up with a CrockPot, so that is how I’ll reference it, but the idea is the same. Prepare ingredients beforehand, set it before you go to work, and come home to magic, without risk of burning your house down. I feel like many people associate slow cooker meals with winter, but I find mine most useful in the summer when my non-air conditioned kitchen is already sweltering in the sub-tropical Japanese summer.

Yesterday I wrote about sustainable meat choices. I am not a huge red meat eater, but I’ve found that if bison is in the equation, I’ll go back for seconds (or thirds!). I threw together this dish one morning before I dashed off for presentations and school speeches. My mom was at home so she was able to monitor the meat, but if you are making this recipe for the first time (or any CrockPot recipe), I recommend doing it on a day when you are home to check on it. Each slow cooker cooks differently, so it is good to get a time frame for your machine before you leave it alone all day while you’re off at work or running errands. After the first time, though, you will have a practically fool-proof way to set your self up for a healthy and frankly flippin’ delicious dinner.

The great thing about CrockPot recipes is that they can feed a crowd or keep well for leftovers. In fact, most things made in a CrockPot (can I abbreviate this somehow? CP??) taste better the next day. It’s also much harder to overcook, burn, or dry out meat in a slow cooker – great for those of you still gaining confidence in the kitchen.

My younger brothers both loved this dish – my twenty-year old brother gobbled about half of it and my ten-year old brother also really enjoyed it even though he doesn’t usually care much for meat. By the time I got home, the only thing that was left was this small serving, which is why I don’t have a picture of the whole dish. But this was such a hit that I’m sure we’ll be making it again, so I’ll have a chance to update the picture. This is best served with a hearty dose of mashed butternut squash or sweet potato, outdoors on your patio during a summer day. At least that is what I did.

Crockpot Bison Stew

Inspired by two dishes from the Civilized Caveman, found here and here.

A note about the onions. I just used up what I had found in my family’s pantry. If you don’t have pearl onions or shallots, just add another regular onion or whatever pleases you.

20 pearl onions

3 onions

1 shallot

5 medium carrots, sliced in half moons

4 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch dice

1 1/2 large zucchini, sliced in half moons

5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 bay leaves

2 tsp Herbamare salt, divided

1 tsp thyme, divided

1/2 c chicken broth, optional

one 2 lb bison roast

Layer the onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini in the bottom of your Slow Cooker. Season with 1 tsp of Herbamare and 1/2 tsp of thyme. Add garlic cloves and bay leaves, then place the bison roast on top of everything. Season roast well with the other half of the salt and remaining thyme. Add chicken broth if you would like more of a stew, or leave it out for a more traditional roast.

Cook on low heat for 6 – 8 hours. We checked our roast after 6 hours and it was cooked through and pretty much melted into shreds when prodded with a fork. If the roast hasn’t reached that consistency after 6 hours, continue to cook until it shreds easily. You won’t have to worry about checking to see if it is done in the middle because there won’t be a middle anymore!

Feeds one hungry young man + 3 people with smaller to normal appetites. In regular serving sizes I would guess that to be sufficient for 6 people, especially if you serve with some sort of mashed squash.

Man. I just ate dinner, and I still really want to eat this. Happy crocking!

Everything IS easy when you’ve got a slow cooker!

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta & Spring Vegetables + Our first giveaway!

Last night my friend asked me what my favorite thing was in my fridge at that time. I couldn’t come up with a good response until today. Leftovers. Leftovers are glorious. My usual strategy is to cook two big meals on the weekend: turkey & vegetable soup, maybe a Thai, Nepalese or Indian curry, or roast chicken, and enjoy quality meals with limited prep time throughout a busy week. The work is already done, and I’m eating food so good it makes me close my eyes and do a happy chair wiggle. You know what I mean.

But there are many people in my family who liken leftovers to dog food. I can understand that. Who wants to microwave something and end up with dry meat or fish, crunchy rice, or my ultimate nightmare -soggy vegetables? First off, I don’t use a microwave. I don’t like what it does to my food texturally and I think using a microwave is just plain bad for you. I gently reheat meat or fish in a saucepan over medium low or low heat. Same goes for curries or soups – into a pot and not nuked. I don’t eat a lot of rice, but if there are leftovers you can make yaki-onigiri (grilled rice cakes) or add it to soup. Anything braised, made into a chili, or prepared via slow cooker actually tastes better as leftovers.

The main reason I love leftovers, however, is because they have the potential to be not the pallid version of yesterday but the start, no halfway finish, to a new meal. Leftovers are great because most of the work is already done for you. Meat and veggies can go in omelets or tacos. Bits and pieces left on a roasted chicken can go in for soup stock along with bones and vegetable peelings.

No one illustrates this more beautifully than Tamar E. Adler in her new book, An Everlasting Meal. She makes me want to cook things I would never previously dream of enjoying, such as homemade mayonnaise or things containing anchovies. And her ideas on leftovers are a revelation. I’ve enjoyed this book so much, I’m going to give you the chance to win a copy! See details at the end of this recipe.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of breaking any sort of copyright laws, and you should just go straight to the source. Tamar Adler says it so much more beautifully and convincingly than I can. She encourages us to think of meals not in a linear way, dutifully plowing through dry or soggy leftovers in order to move on to better meals, but rather like a big circle. The best way I can illustrate this is to show you with a recipe I came up with last night after a long day out and little desire to make a big production for dinner. I still managed to feed two people, have leftovers, and start preparing some parts of my lunch today.

Breakfast: Roasted Kabocha

Wash the skin with fruit & veggie spray. Cut kabocha into quarters. Scoop out seeds and set aside to roast later for a snack. Spread 1 T coconut oil onto each pumpkin piece, and roast in a 400 degree oven until flesh is caramelized and easily pierced with a fork (or dull chopstick if you’re like me). This takes about 45 – 70 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Set one of the pieces aside for dinner.

simultaneous roasting of sweet potato optional

Dinner: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Spring Vegetables

Makes 3 servings

4oz gluten-free noodles. I used Ancient Quinoa Harvest corn-quinoa blend.

2 tsp Herbamare salt, divided

1 large bunch of spring asparagus, no thicker than a pencil and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly on a mandolin

¼ roasted kabocha squash, flesh scooped out and mashed (I ended up with 2/3 c)

1/3 c pasta cooking water, reserved

¼ tsp thyme

In a large saucepan, bring water and 1 tsp of Herbamare to a boil. Add the gluten-free noodles once the water has reached a rolling boil. Cook according to package directions, but do not overcook. My instructions said 6-8 minutes, so I made sure only to cook for 6 minutes total. In the last two minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus and zucchini. Turn off the heat. This is why you want the vegetables to be thin so they cook quickly.

In a wide skillet, mash the kabocha with 1/3 c pasta water until it is smooth. Use tongs to transfer the pasta and vegetables into a wide skillet. Gently toss to combine, adding the thyme and remaining teaspoon of Herbamare. If the sauce looks too watery, simmer the pasta over low heat until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Of course if the sauce is too thick, add some more pasta water one tablespoon at a time.  Serve as is for a light meal or with a side of roasted chicken if you have hungrier dinner guests.

for Lunch Save the remaining pasta water. Bring to a boil and add shelled fava beans (you could also add green beans or any other veggie you want to flash boil). Cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans are tender. Strain, saving the pasta water for stock. Cool the beans overnight and add them to your usual lunch salad.

Another breakfast I plan on eating the pasta leftovers tomorrow! I’m also going to make chicken stock with the leftover pasta water and chicken bones.

Please please please buy a copy of An Everlasting Meal. It will make you love your kitchen, love your cooking mistakes, and love leftovers! If you can’t afford it – try your local library. If you want to win a copy, follow the instructions below!

Please leave a comment (and not anonymously) and share your favorite kitchen memory. Next time you are afraid to cook or don’t feel like it after a long day, remember that memory and try to recreate a good feeling rather than a perfect dish. Giveaway will be open until Sunday at midnight, Central Time in the US. I’ll announce the winner Monday.

Breakdown of Links

Turkey & Vegetable Soup from eatrecyclerepeat

Brown Rice Yaki Onigiri with Bacon & Avocado from La Fuji Mama

Stone Soup from 222 million tons

About Tamar E. Adler and her book, An Everlasting Meal

Roasted Delicata Squash Seeds from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations

Excerpt from “How to Live Well”, a chapter about cooking beans from An Everlasting Meal

Anatomy of a Salad from eatrecyclerepeat

“cooking mistakes” aka Kitchen Failures from eatrecyclerepeat

Part of Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend May 17 – 21.

Many thanks to Joy the Baker for introducing me to this fabulous book.