Saturday, March 1, 2014

LIFE SUPPORT Release Party & Book Giveaway!

*** 3:29 pm  March 7th (Kazoon toot, please!) Here are our lucky partygoing book winners: KAREN STEVENS, KELLI JO C., CHRIS GRANVILLE, BARB PEACOCK, and "SUNNYMEADOWS"! Congratultions, and thank you ALL for helping to celebrate the release of  LIFE SUPPORT! ***

Though Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook and several other sites have already "scooped" the date by a week or more, today March 1st marks the official release of my newest medical novel,
  LIFE SUPPORT.

Nurse Lauren Barclay puts life on hold to keep a watchful eye on her troubled sister. It’s why she’s back in Houston. But that means confronting the brooding Physician Assistant who caused painful turmoil in her family--and left Lauren with memories her heart can’t forget.

PA and single parent Elijah Landry is no stranger to stormy relationships, including his father, who is threatening him with a restraining order. It won’t stop Eli from protecting his disabled brother—or making peace with Lauren. He wants that and so much more.

But as Lauren and Eli draw closer, a powerful hurricane roars toward Houston. Survival instincts take priority and everything changes. Can hope weather the storm?

Someone please cue the champagne pop . . .   Thank you!


As you may know, this Houston set story is the final book in my Grace Medical series, and I am already working on the first of my three newly contracted books. But this in no way prohibits me leaving the keyboard long enough to throw a release celebration party. So let's do it!

Since Life Support's story includes a  lively Mardi Gras party, I thought we should serve slices of King Cake:

Mmm, grab a slice--and watch out for the little toy baby prize. Ah, you look great with purple sprinkles on your chin!  

And because I can't write a book without more than one sweet treat, how about we add some chocolate cherry scones from a scene at Houston's exceptional coffee spot, Ben's Beans?


Oh, and we must offer Eli Landry's brother's favorite food in the world: Blueberry Pancakes!


Yes, that works. But maybe we should have some protein, too . . . Louisiana style. Like Gumbo:


And some of those yummy salami-layered Cajun Muffuletta sandwiches:

Here, grab a napkin. And start tapping your toes. The band is starting up: 


Heads up, as soon as you finish your gumbo, it's your turn at the rub board

Now let's put some of this together with a brief snippet from LIFE SUPPORT:

***
Lauren opened the door to find festivities in full force . . . 

The air smelled of gumbo—chicken, smoky sausage, shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, garlic—spicy and pungent, but there was a bakery scent too, yeasty and sticky-sweet like frosting.  The Viettes had done an amazing job turning the homey great room into Mimaw’s version of the French Quarter in New Orleans, featuring a huge vinyl mural complete with brick walls and triple-story ironwork balconies, street signs, and even the gaudy likeness of costumed dancers and musicians. Green, purple, and gold streamers hung from the overhead beams. An elegant sequined mask was affixed to Auntie Odette’s smiling portrait. 

To say that there was music was an understatement.

The hardwood floor thrummed from speakers offering blues and jazz—saxophone, trumpet, piano—alternating with an upbeat blend of accordion and washboard: zydeco . . . 

Cyril must have caught Eli at the door, because he wore a trio of bead strings around his neck, a complete style clash with the pale striped shirt, jeans, and running shoes—all of it so different from the white coat and scrubs he wore at Houston Grace. His hair looked damp. Rain maybe, or more likely he’d showered after leaving the hospital. But even beyond the beads and casual clothes, he seemed more than a little out of his element. His dark eyes were serious as he scanned the room, taking in the decorations and the crowd.

Oh, dear . . . Lauren’s stomach did a foolish somersault as their eyes met.

***
Great food, music, romance, medical drama, and hurricane brewing! I hope that's enough to entice you to give this new story a try. In fact, by way of continuing celebration, I'm going to help that along right now.

Let's a have book giveaway!

For your chance at one of FIVE signed copies of LIFE SUPPORT, leave a comment below about our launch party (do you like gumbo, was there a prize in your king cake, have you ever danced the Cajun jig, does a good romance story make your heart flutter?). Be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you if your name is chosen. I'll draw the winning names (via Random.Org) on Friday March 7th and contact the lucky winners by e-mail.

Good luck to you all. And have another slice of king cake!  Wheeee (rubbing my knuckles on the washboard and tooting a kazoo): LIFE SUPPORT has released!! 

**For another chance to win a copy of this book, check out fellow author Dr. Richard M. Mabry's blog where I explain how a book release is a bit like giving birth:  RANDOM JOTTINGS, The Expectant Author **

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sugar & Spice, and Everything . . . Nuts

A week before Christmas, and I'm crossing off lists, thumbing through recipes, and decorating everything that stands still.

 Inside:


And outside, too:


When I was climbing the ladder to hang these oversize ornaments on our bare crepe myrtle tree, a (very wise) neighbor called out, "Be careful up there!"--probably heard the rumor about my acorn-ankle incident. Sigh. Infamous. 

Speaking of neighbors, I always try to gift a little cheer to those special folks who make us grateful we live where we do. Mostly, I take cookies. But this year, I'm saying NUTS to that idea, and stirring up several batches of one of the favorite Calvert house munchies. A sweet and spicy nut mix that is perfect for gifting, adding to your cookie tray, or enjoying as you wrap presents, wipe away a tear over  "A Wonderful Life," a  Hallmark Christmas movie--or root wildly for your favorite football team.  

So here we go, a very easy and very yummy recipe:

Chili Nuts Santa Fe
adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens Recipe
Ingredients:

1 egg white
1 Tbl. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbl. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper (to taste, I use the smaller measure)
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups of peanuts or mixed nuts (I use unsalted cashews, large peanuts, pecan halves, and unsalted whole almonds)

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large cookie pan with foil and coat liberally with cooking spray. 

Mix all ingredents together in a large bowl.


Stir well to coat the nuts.
Then spread the mixture onto your prepared pan:


Bake for 20 minutes, stirring twice.
Cool. Break apart large clusters.
Store in an airtight container (or zip lock bag) for up to one week--if they last that long!

So that's it, easy-peasy. And a nice higher protein complement to the Christmas cookie fest.
Here's a photo of the nuts all packaged up (with a few pretty chocolates added) and ready to take to the neighbors:



And while we're making ourselves NUTS, crossing off lists, climbing up ladders, and trying to make everything "merry and bright," let's find some moments to take a deep breath and remember that it's the simple pleasures that are most important. Those everyday things we too often take for granted as we let the busy-ness of our lives take over. In this season of miracles, let's be grateful for the beauty and affirmation of those perfect blessings. Like this one we saw last night, above that ornament-adorned crepe myrtle tree:


Courtesy of God the Artist.

Tinsel will never compare.

Merry Christmas friends!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good Gravy! (or otherwise): Guest Author Lynette Sowell (giveaway)

**Thursday Dec. 12th, 12:45 PM: Congratulationst to our newest giveaway winner, Linda Finn! **

My guest today is the award-winning author of over one dozen titles for Barbour Publishing. In 2009, she was voted one of the favorite new authors by Heartsong Presents book club readers. Her historical romance, All That Glitters, was a finalist in ACFW's 2010 Carol Awards. She makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband and a herd of cats who have them well-trained. She loves reading, cooking, watching movies, and is always up for a Texas road trip. Please wave your wooden spoons in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for



Good gravy!

By Lynette Sowell

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

These are my favorite lines from one of my favorite Christmas stories. Scrooge is huddled alone in his big dark house and he's tucked beside his fireplace on Christmas Eve. Of course, he's in denial about the fact that his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, has come back to visit—and warn him.
Dickens' lines above make me smile every time. Scrooge thinks Marley's appearance is a figment of his own indigestion.
Instead of having Scrooge say, “It must have been something I ate,” Dickens had Scrooge blame the gravy.
I blame the gravy, too. Gravy and I? Well, let's say there are many things I can cook, and cook well.
But gravy? There's a 50-50 chance that I'll either get it right, or end up with a lump of, ah, something in the pot.
This year for Thanksgiving, I was spared the ordeal of making gravy because my in-laws made the turkey. The rule is, whoever makes the turkey makes the gravy, too. But Thanksgiving not at our home meant we'd have few leftovers. So this meant I'd make a turkey anyway.
I can roast a great turkey, but this year, for some reason, I didn't end up with as many drippings as I usually do for making gravy.
No problem. I could improvise. I'd simply make a roux out of the drippings I did have by adding flour. . I whisked the turkey drippings and flour on the stove. Looking good...
Then I added some water and milk, and yes! The gravy thickened. And thickened. And thickened.
It resembled the consistency of that paste kids used school once upon a time, the kind one kid in the class always tried to eat.
My daughter saw the gravy and frowned.
“Uh, Mom. You need to add some liquid to that. It's too thick.” She's an accomplished young cook herself, and yes, she was right.
So I tried to thin the gravy, and the verdict came back: “It tastes like, uh, flour.”
Gravy and I? We don't get along anymore. I think next time I make a turkey, I'll leave the gravy to my husband, or get packets of the just-add-water gravy mix. That, I can do.

In my new release, Tempest's Course, my heroine Kelly isn't much of a cook. She's very work focused and while she likes a tasty dish, she doesn't care to spend the time in the kitchen, only cooking for herself. I think she would have plenty of sympathy over my gravy predicament.
A few blocks from the former home of a whaling captain, where Kelly's preparing a bid to restore an old quilt, she stumbles upon a little storefront soup shop, much to her delight. I based this shop on Destination Soups, a place in New Bedford, Mass., where my book is set. They have amazing clam chowder:

***
The breeze cut through her jacket, so she made her way up a couple of blocks from the harbor. A few shops lined the street. A carved wooden sign swung above one storefront, Soup Nation. Someone opened the door and a swirl of scents drifted onto the sidewalk.

Kelly's stomach growled. She'd skipped breakfast while making the final touches on her bid that morning. She entered the shop and inhaled the mouthwatering aroma. Someone had just pulled a loaf of bread from the oven, too.

She ordered half a grilled cheese panini and a bowl of the fresh tomato soup, then slid into an empty booth. The tiny restaurant enveloped her with its warmth as she sipped her soup and enjoyed the tang of the cheese sandwich. Lottie would greet her with a grilled cheese sandwich after school, Kelly and the posse of kids walked from the school bus.

Kelly lifted her soup bowl as if in a silent toast, then set it on the table in front of her. A whoosh of air made her look up as the door opened.

The curly haired grouch from the other day stood in the doorway. He stopped when their gazes collided. He nodded at her.

Hey,” he said as he passed by on his way to the counter. 


Kelly Frost, a textiles conservator, is invited to the Massachusetts coastal city of New Bedford to restore a 150-year-old Mariner's Compass quilt. But there is one stipulation: she must live and work in Gray House, a former whaling captain's home, where the quilt is stored. There she meets Army veteran Tom Pereira, the caretaker of Gray House, whose heart seems as hard as the rocky Massachusetts coastline. Over the long-lit months as Kelly works to restore the quilt, she and Tom grow closer. And as she reads stories in a daily journal penned by Mary Gray, she learns the secrets of the quilt and Mary's own sad tale of regret. Then Tom learns secrets of his own family's past, and both Tom and Kelly learn they are tied to Gray House in ways they never imagined.
***

Mmm. I don't know about you, but grilled cheese and tomato soup always makes my mouth water! Perfect comfort food. Thank you, Lynette, for sharing your Thanksgiving saga and a snippet from your wonderful upcoming release. 

Now, with the generosity of Wynn-Wynn Media, I'd like to offer a fun giveaway: a copy of Tempest's Course, and a nice set of Pier 1 bath soaps. For your chance at this prize package,  please leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address.   I'll choose a name (via Random.Org) on Thursday, December 12th and notify the lucky winner by e-mail. 

Until then, happy reading . . . and Bon appetit!  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

There's a Kitchen Easy Button?

Even for those of us who love to cook, there are times when life simply gets in the way, or--in truth--we're just not feelin' it. If you're alone, maybe it's a great excuse for a popcorn entree. Hey, I've done it. 

But if you've got other rumbling tummies in the house, you'll want to come up with something a bit more substantial-- beyond cheddar cheese powder on the popcorn. 


How do you make something quick, nutritious, and yummy? Something that looks like you fussed, but didn't lash you to the stove for hours? It's entirely possible. 



Here's one of my favorite Easy Button meals. 

Yep, we're starting with a can and a package:



Chili: I like to use a nice organic (vegetarian) brand like Amy's. But any chili is fine.

Polenta: I find mine in the pasta section. This one is organic Quinoa. But ordinary corn polenta works just as well. It's pre-cooked, ready to heat and enjoy.  

Now for some fun "extras":



Sour cream (this one is vegan), avocadoes, cilantro, grated cheese of choice, and an ear of corn. 

Slice and grill the polenta: 



Microwave the corn for a few minutes, then toss it on the grill, too: 


Heat the chili (stove or microwave). Then put polenta on plates, top with chili, roasted corn (any corn is fine, doesn't have to be roasted), grated cheese, sour cream, avocado slices, and cilantro. Maybe a buttered tortilla on the side.  Add a pretty napkin and . . . voila! 



Healthful, fast, pretty, looks like you fussed. Let them shower you with compliments: no need to confess you hit the Easy Button

And speaking of short-cut meals, here's a little snippet from my upcoming release, LIFE SUPPORT.  The scene takes place in Houston Grace hospital, where Physician Assistant Eli Landry and ER nurse Lauren Barclay have been through an emotional wringer with tough cases and personal conflict. Eli's ordered a cafeteria tray for his 8 yr. old daughter who, because of circumstances, must eat her dinner in his office:

“Oh, cool!” Emma Landry chirped, appearing in the doorway. She glanced at Lauren, then back to her father. “Did you ask her, Dad?” 

“No. I—”

“Ask me what?” Lauren couldn’t imagine.

Eli shook his head. “It’s noth—”

“Shrek,” Emma blurted. “Our dog. Dad picked him up at the groomer on his way to get me at camp. Then we had to come here because of Uncle Drew.  Shrek’s downstairs at the loading dock.   Everyone’s being really nice; Vee even gave me a hospital blanket—oops.” She pressed her fingers to her lips. Chipped nail polish, each one a different color. “I probably shouldn’t tell you about the blanket. Anyway, he has water, too. And a place to lie down. But we’re worried because of the thunder.”

Eli tossed Lauren a sheepish look. “Our dog’s a coward.”

“We wondered if you could take him home with you.” Emma’s nose perked with appreciation as she caught a whiff of the cafeteria tray. “Just ’til Dad’s shift is over. That’s only a couple of hours from now. Shrek would be no problem.” 

“I think that’s too much to ask, Emma.” Eli lifted the cover from his daughter’s dinner. The salty-rich aroma of melted cheddar and fries wafted. “It isn’t right to impose.”


“Only for a few hours?” Lauren watched as Emma poked her small finger though the vortex of a curly fry . “I’m watching my folks’ dog. And Hannah   Leigh’s . . .”  She decided there was no way she could explain that her parents’ shih tzu was under the care of a canine therapist. “She’s sort of sensitive.”    

Easy button hospital cafeteria meal for my characters but, trust me, nothing else is easy for those folks, as you'll see when LIFE SUPPORT  releases in March, 2014. 

Meanwhile, takes some bows for an easy but healthful meal in your own kitchens. Happy reading and . . . bon appetit! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kitchen Hula: Guest Author Lisa Carter (giveaway)

**Weds. Nov. 27th 5:10 PM  Congratulations to our giveaway winner, Jackie! ** 

Our guest today is bringing a taste of the tropics to Authors' Galley. Especially delightful for those of you already pulling on mittens, parkas and wool hats in the season's first snows. I've seen your Facebook pics! Our guest's newest novel, Aloha Rose, a contemporary romance in the Quilts of Love series, releases this month. She and her husband have two daughters and make their home in North Carolina. When she isn't writing, she enjoys traveling to romantic locales, quilting, and researching her next exotic adventure. Please tie on your aprons and join me in a warm welcome for Lisa Carter.





Aloha from the 50th state and the setting of my novel, Aloha Rose. One of the things I love most about Hawaii is its rainbow of ethnicities. In fact, Hawaii is only state in the United States with no racial majority. Hawaii is composed of an ethnic rainbow of cultures, which add flavor and spice to the local cuisine. I like food and Aloha Rose is chock full of different foodie options available in this tropical paradise.

It’s a culinary adventure starting with breakfast and includes tropical juices such as mango, guava, pineapple and coconut. My favorite coffee is Kona, grown on the Big Island. For lunch, there’s boxed plate lunches with rice and meat, readily available at most roadside stands and food trucks, a result of quick lunches compiled by former Filipino and Japanese pineapple plantation workers. The Native Hawaiians bring poi—a pastelike starch and acquired taste, trust me—to the luau table along with haupia—a coconut pudding—and laulau—pork or chicken rolled in taro leaves.


I should warn visitors, however, of one dish for which Hawaiians of all races and cultures have a particular affection—SPAM. So beloved it’s considered it’s own food group. And Hawaiians will find a way to incorporate SPAM into every meal—I’m talking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whether it be SPAM omelets or SPAM burgers or SPAM casseroles. Definitely another acquired taste. But hey, if fit takes hanging out in the islands long enough to develop a fondness for chopped or fried SPAM, I’m willing to suffer for my writing art.

In the interests of everyone’s cholesterol levels, though, I share this fun dessert you can make at home to bring a little Hawaiian into your regularly scheduled winter.

Looking for something different to serve for dessert at Thanksgiving?
How about a shaka cool, Hawaiian way to usher in the holidays?

Hula Pie



Ingredients:
•9-inch chocolate pie crust
•Half-gallon of macadamia ice cream
(substitute with vanilla and chopped macadamia nuts if necessary)
•4 ounces chocolate fudge topping
•1 shot of espresso or Kona coffee
•6 ounces of macadamia nuts
•Whipped cream

Directions:
1. Allow fudge topping to warm to room temperature.
2. Scoop ice cream into prepared shell. Smooth mound into a high bombe dome.
3. If substituting vanilla ice cream—soften slightly and mix in by hand chopped nuts according to taste.
4. Warm espresso or coffee and mix into fudge topping.
5. Warm knife or metal spatula to spread topping evenly over bombe.
6. Freeze until ready to serve.
7. Cover hula pie with a layer of whipped cream and sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts before serving.

Mahalo and I hope you enjoy my favorite dessert from the tropical paradise of the Aloha state.




Excerpt from Aloha Rose

Thanks to a fierce case of jet lag, Laney rose with the sunrise at the sound of a door slamming in the direction of the stable behind the house. The thought of truck doors, a specific burgundy F150 to be exact, drove her from the twisted sheets. Hiding behind a lace-paneled curtain, Laney’s early bird behavior rewarded her with a too brief glimpse of Kai’s broad shoulders that tapered to a narrow waist. She exhaled as Kai disappeared on a sturdy coal black quarter horse to dispense with his morning chores. She’d let the lace panel drift into place.
      Kai Barnes. Obnoxious to a fault. Arrogant.
      But real easy on the eyes.
      Dinner had been a tense affair, everyone afraid to speak lest they say the wrong thing. Mily, unconcerned with strained undercurrents, chirped like a little bird, doing her best to put Laney and “Rose” in the know of the activities available on the ranch and around town. Dinner had also involved spam. And not the junk that cluttered the Internet.
      Spam burgers. The look on Laney’s face, despite her best efforts, betrayed her, for Kai laughed out loud.
      “Tutu’s favorite meal and Teah’s cooking specialty,” Kai informed her. And when Teah returned to the kitchen, he offered to split his burger with her, too, if she wanted more.
      Following Elyse’s lead at the Moana, Laney kicked him under the table.


From the back cover of Aloha Rose

Will conflict with one man keep Laney from her dream of a loving family? When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt—a red rose snowflake applique on a white background—in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he loves. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold-digger and blocks every move she makes. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family.

***
What a delight to have you in our cyber kitchen, Lisa--I apologize for the SPAM pat down! And I'm still chuckling over that great scene from Aloha Rose. Thank you for offering us some beach time and a yummy slice of pie.

And now for our Hawaii-themed giveaway. The wonderful Wynn-Wynn Media has put together a fun prize package:

A copy of Aloha Rose, cute tea towel AND some yummy Macadamia nuts! 

For your chance to win,  leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address.  I will draw a winning name (via Random.Org) on Weds. November 27th and notify the lucky person via e-mail. 

Until then happy reading . . . and bon appetit! 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Houston We have a Pumpkin . . .

I figure if stores are already playing Christmas music and replacing Halloween treats with candy canes, then it's not too early for holiday cookie recipes. Especially if they are pumpkin. Pumpkin offerings are like a spicy-wonderful bridge between Halloween and Christmas.

A kind of welcome, like what folks see when they walk up to the Calvert porch



Yesterday I tried out a pumpkin cookie recipe I found online, and decided I had to share. It's pretty yummy and not overly sweet. More like those little scone bites you can find at Starbuck's. 


Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
via CHOW website 

For the cookies:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I increased it to 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I doubled this) (and added 1/2 tsp. Allspice as well)

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature 

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pie filling; about 1 3/4 cups)


For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk (not nonfat), plus more or less as needed
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the egg and vanilla, return the mixer to medium speed, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl.


With the mixer on low speed, add half of the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the pumpkin and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and pumpkin.





Drop by rounded, heaping Tablespoons (I like a large cookie scoop) onto parchment lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
cookie scoops, a must in my kitchen--no sticky fingers! 


Bake for a total of 20-24 minutes, rotating cookie sheets on oven shelves halfway. Cookies will be plump, round, soft, golden brown underneath and at edges when done.

Cool on racks. 

Meanwhile whisk together ingredients for glaze (in the pic, I'm using almond milk because that's what we drink). I found the mixture a bit runny and had to add a little more powdered sugar. 



It's easy to drizzle glaze by using a zip lock sandwich bag--nicely disposable too! Simply spoon glaze into bag, seal. Then snip a VERY TINY bit off off one corner. Squeeze bag in squiggles over the cookies and Voila! 



The glaze sets in about 20 minutes, and your Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies are ready to serve: 


To read the original recipe (and reviews) you can click here: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30456-spiced-pumpkin-oatmeal-cookies


Huh? What . . . Houston? Why did I call this post "Houston We have a Pumpkin"?

Because home made cookies need coffee, coffee and cookies require a good book. 
And I have one in mind. An exciting and romantic medical drama set in . . . Houston. 


That's right, LIFE SUPPORT, the third book in my Grace Medical series is scheduled for release on March 1st.  It's already on pre-order via favorite online sites. 

 Family turmoil, ethics, and a hurricane: can hope weather the storm?

You'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile here's a little Chapter One   to go with those cookies. 

Happy reading . . . and bon appetit!




Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tater Tots, Pickles & Jam--Oh my! Guest Author Kelly Irvin (Giveaway)

** Weds. November 6th, 1:25 PM: CONGRATULATIONS to Kay M, our giveaway winner. And thank you ALL for stopping by the blog to make Kelly feel welcome. **

A favorite author of Amish fiction, my guest today has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. She and her photographer husband have two young adult children and share their happy South Texas home with two cats and a tank full of fish. 

Wave your wooden spoons in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for Kelly Irvin 



A writer’s life imitates art in the kitchen
By Kelly Irvin

When it comes to cooking and my writing journey, it seems that life has imitated art in recent years. I write Amish fiction which, as you can imagine, involves heroines who spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, either cooking, baking, or canning. I admit, I’m not the cook in the family. My husband is a fabulous cook and he enjoys it so I “let” him. Once a vegetarian, I’m not a big fan of meat, while Tim’s favorite food group is steak and bacon, preferably as often as possible. Strangely enough, writing Amish fiction has helped us bridge the gap. It’s added a sweet new dimension to our married life.

As I began to do research for my Amish romance novels, I acquired cookbooks so I could incorporate authentic foods in my stories. The more I mused over the recipes, the more the dishes—especially the desserts—called my name. For my first launch party, I made shoofly pie and whoopie pies to serve to my guests. I used a pat-a-pan pie crust recipe from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book by Lovina Eicher with Kevin Williams. Probably the first edible pie crust I’ve ever made from scratch (and the most fun).



This summer I came across a tater tot casserole recipe in Sherry Gore’s Simply Delicious Amish Cooking. She describes it as a staple in Mennonite homes everywhere. It has most of the important food groups: ground beef, peas (we use green beans), shredded cheese, onion, celery, and tater tots. A food group all their own. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m having a long standing love affair with tater tots. I’m willing to send extra time on the treadmill in order to have them on my plate now and then. Tim took the recipe and ran with it. I love it. My kids love. Tim loves it. Now my mother-in-law is serving it to my father-in-law.



But things really took off when in one of my books, I had to describe the steps necessary to can jams and jellies. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving landed on my cookbook shelf. Tim, like me, grew up in a house where the women folk canned in the summer. We have a good friend who has mustang grapes growing on her property. So we made grape jam. And strawberry. And raspberry. And blueberry. Give me a toasted whole wheat bagel, crunchy peanut butter, and homemade jam, and I’m in heaven.




Then Tim finagled his grandmother’s bread and butter pickle recipe from his mother. We graduated to pickle canning. He does the heavy lifting, while I help out with the simple things like washing jars or acting as a gopher. It doesn’t matter what I do (as long as I follow instructions to the T and stay out of the way when he’s on a roll). It’s that we’re in the kitchen together, working as a team. The aroma is mouthwatering and it reminds me of being a child in my mother’s kitchen. She canned tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn—all fresh from our garden. She and my Grandma Irene and my Great Grandmother Bertha would get together and buy a bushel each of Colorado peaches every summer and make peach jam, peach pies, peach cobblers . . . . It makes my mouth water to think of it and my heart sigh to remember being in the kitchen with them—four generations of women canning together.

It was not unlike the Amish canning frolics. Particularly when I remember how hot it was. We didn’t have air conditioning and summer in Kansas is a lot like summer in south Texas—endlessly hot and humid. The kitchen would fill with that steam floating in the air from the boiling water. We were all sweating, but we didn’t really think anything of it.




It’s not hard for me to reproduce that ambiance in the kitchen scenes in Love Still Stands. Bethel Graber has a disability and she is so afraid she won’t be able to be everything a wife and mother should be. She works out this system in the kitchen to get from the table to the stove to the counter and back without falling. She bakes pies and makes stew and learns to feel useful again. Tim and I don’t solve all our problems in the kitchen, but we are reminded we’ve been a great team for twenty-five years. We both bring our strengths to the table—or the stove—and they complement each other perfectly. 


" . . . a beautiful young woman with a passion for teaching . . .  But after being disabled in a terrible accident, overseeing a classroom is out of the question…and romance seems a long-lost dream. Bethel begins physical therapy, determined to make a fresh start. But that won’t be easy in the town of New Hope, where the locals seem anything but eager to welcome their new Amish neighbors. Amid growing intimidation from the community, Bethel must find the strength to face her many challenges and the faith to believe that God still has a plan—and a love—for her life.

***
Thank you, Kelly, for this delightful (and delicious) peek into your kitchen. 

And now, Wynn-Wynn Media has generously offered a giveaway to celebrate Kelly's new book:
 A copy of Love Still Stands and a very cute set of owl potholders!

For your chance at the giveaway, please leave a comment about Kelly's post below. Be sure to include your e-mail address. I'll draw a winner (via Random.Org) on Weds. Nov. 6th and contact the lucky person by e-mail. US entries only, please. 

Meanwhile, happy reading and bon appetit!