Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who Brings Sushi to a Rodeo?

March 4th, 8:35 AM:  Congratulations to our book giveaway winner, Sally (proverbialreads)!

For most of us, time is at a premium. We juggle work, caring for family (children and sometimes parents too), writing deadlines, and more. In a perfect world, we'd have time to wander grocery stores and farmers' markets and ogle food--oops, that may have been a bit subjective. I'm a food ogler,  label-reading junkie . . . and prone to produce pinching. But even if that isn't your thing, I think you'll admit that the hunting, gathering, and preparing of food takes time--and making healthful choices isn't always easy. 

That's where stir-fry can help. The ingredients are endless, adding meat is an option. And many grocery stores now offer fresh, pre-packaged stir-fry kits in the refrigerated area of the produce section (complete with instructions).  Since, admittedly, I like to wander, ogle, and produce-pinch, I usually gather my own ingredients for stir-fry. Like:

This baby Bok-Choy
Tender, tasty, slice and cook stem and all

I like to stir fry with Toasted Sesame Oil (amazing nutty flavor!) Tamari sauce (gluten free soy sauce) and sometimes use mushroom broth instead of chicken broth

 In the photo below, you see that I've added Snow Peas, green onion, sweet red pepper, and water chestnuts (canned, sliced) to the baby bok choy. It takes only a few minutes to stir-fry the veggies to a tender-crisp doneness. 

If you like, you can add leftover beef, chicken, or pork strips, tofu--or perhaps shrimp. Pre-packaged Japanese noodles (also found in the refrigerated produce section) are a great addition--stir them right in at the last. OR, use the stir-fry to top rice. One of my favorites is Jasmine rice, which I've recently found in an organic brown option.

If you choose a quick cooking rice, or leftover rice, this healthful meal can be ready to serve in under 30 minutes. Not counting extended grocery story wandering, ogling, label reading, and produce pinching, of course.

So, where do the SUSHI and RODEO come in?

In this snippet of a scene from my first Mercy Hospital book, CRITICAL CARE , where hero Dr. "McSnarly" Caldwell convinces our heroine, nurse-educator Claire Avery, to leave the hospital rodeo for a picnic at northern California's Daffodil Hill:


He laughed and reached forward until their bottles were a hairbreadth apart again. “I thought I was doing pretty well today,” he said, glancing back toward the masses of blooms. “Even you looked happy for a minute there, Educator.” 

Even I?

Logan leaned nearer, his gaze holding hers for a breath-catching moment, and Claire saw that there were flecks of gold in his eyes like the sparkle of treasure in some clear California stream. She could feel the warmth of his skin, smell the soapy clean scent of it, and see the soft texture of his lips. She wondered what it might be like to . . . “Cheers, then!” she said much too loudly, clinking her water sharply against Logan’s, then scooted backward so fast that she crashed into the chicken pecking at her abandoned sushi.  It squawked furiously and scurried off . . . almost as fast as Claire wanted to.

Logan was silent and she didn’t dare look back at him. She busied herself with retrieving the sushi, hoping to hide her blushing face. She was a fool to have come here today. She hadn’t had enough sleep to make rational decisions. Obviously. Or why else would she go off into the woods with a man she barely knew, probably didn’t even actually like, and then start imagining what it would be like to . . .

“I wasn’t trying to kiss you,” he said, breaking the silence. 

. “What? Oh . . . I was thinking that.” Claire forced herself to look at him, to stop panicking. He was doctor, not a mind reader. 

“You were . . . You sat on a chicken.”

“I . . . well . . .” Claire sputtered helplessly for a moment and then struggled futilely against a surge of laughter. 

“Frankly,” Logan said, watching her laugh, “I’m insulted by that. Traumatized maybe. Yes.” His voice faltered, slowly dissolving into deep laughter that blended with hers. “I might . . . need . . . counseling.”

She threw the sushi. He ducked. 


Making it clear:  Even if I did admit to ogling food . . . I never sat on a chicken!

How about about you: run-in with a chicken, love to wander the grocery aisle, have favorite ingredients for stir fry? Leave a comment below (with an e-mail address) and I'll enter your name in book giveaway for a signed, personalized copy of Critical Care. If you already own it, I'm happy to sign it for a friend or as a donation to your library. I'll draw the winning name (via on Monday, March 4th, and notify the winner by e-mail.

Until then, Bon Appetit! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Eggplant & Heroes: Make 'Em Sweat

Last fall I posted Facebook photos of an eggplant dish I was making. Explained that I'd first peel, slice, and salt the eggplant to make it "sweat." Seriously. People had fun with that--someone even imagined a police-veggie interrogation scene. But it's true, I do salt the raw slices and let them sit for 30 min., allowing the juices to escape. Then rinse, blot dry. This step is said to take any bitterness away. And make them absorb less oil when baking or frying.  I'm a fan of "oven frying." And eggplant is wonderful for that.

Here's one of my favorite recipes: Oven Fried Eggplant

1/2 cup mayonnaise  (lately I use vegan)
1 Tbl. minced onion
12 slices  (or 1 lb.) eggplant, 1/2 inch thick
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
Cooking spray
Combine mayo and onion, stir well. 
Spread over both sides of eggplant slices
Combine bread crumbs, cheese, seasonings in shallow bowl
Dredge eggplant in crumb mixture
Place eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray
Bake:425 degrees 12 minutes, turn and bake approx 12 minutes more, until golden

The slices can be enjoyed as is with a marinara dip, as a side dish, or combined as part of another recipe. Below, you can see how I stacked them with polenta slices, fresh spinach, cheese, and a lovely pasta sauce.

And the finished product . . . yummy:

Wooden spoon hypothesis: To make things better, sometimes you have to make them sweat.

And that applies in fiction, too.  You've got to put those characters under pressure. Like in this scene from my upcoming release, RESCUE TEAM.  Our heroine, nurse director Kate Callison, cornered by the hospital attorney . . . 


“I’m not sure I understand what you’re suggesting,” Kate said, stomach churning. She leaned forward in her chair, staring across the desk at the youngest partner of the Lyon legal firm. “The police are trying to locate the mother of that baby. It’s only been one day. No one’s blaming the hospital.”

“Except for our self-appointed community health-care vigilante.” Barrett Lyon’s eyes, gray as his well-cut jacket, narrowed a fraction. “This person, Waiting for Care—”

“Compassion,” Kate corrected, suspecting the attractive attorney had none whatsoever.

 “ Waiting for Compassion. But the letters and online posts have only alluded to medical settings. No specific hospitals have been named.”

“Correct. And any number of Austin-area facilities could have discovered a newborn infant on a bathroom floor yesterday.” Despite the obvious barb, Barrett’s eyes softened. He sighed, splaying his hands on the desk. “Kate, I know this is last thing you need on your plate right now. 
Yes, it’s possible that the police will locate the mother who abandoned that baby and prosecute her. That would be good.”

Good? Kate tasted bile.

“But we have to be prepared if someone who may have standing in the case comes forward and accuses the hospital of wrongdoing. We need to look at the possibility of shared liability.  And at the chain of command within the emergency department.”

Kate swallowed. “Including me.”

Barrett was quiet for a moment. “Again, this is all necessary preparation. On the whole, designed to protect the hospital and the staff. I’m here for you, too, Kate.” He slid back his sleeve to check his watch. “It’s nearly lunchtime.” The gray eyes met hers and Barrett smiled, perfect teeth against a flawless tan. “We could discuss this further, say at the Shore View Grill?  Nice view. Been there yet?” 

“No,” Kate answered, uncomfortable on a whole new level. “I can’t leave. We’re short-staffed. I really should go check on things out there.”

“Of course.” Barrett stood. “I’ll be in touch . . ."

Kate opened her mouth, closed it. Pushed papers around on her desk until the hospital’s attorney was safely out the door. Then sat back down and propped her head in her hands. Lunch? The only thing on Kate’s menu today was a handful of antacids.

Yes, our heroine's up to her eyeballs in tragedy, legal pressure . . . . and more. You can bet she's sweating like salted eggplant. And, trust me, it will only get worse--before it gets better. My characters have to earn their happily-ever-after. 

So, it's a new week. What's cooking at your house? What are you reading? And fellow authors: Are you making your characters sweat?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Hug from the Kitchen: Comfort Food Confessions

No worries. I'm not going to ask you to raise your hand and confess--not right now. I'm going first:

Peanut Butter. In almost any form. 

 Though this brand is organic (which takes away half the calories, right?), in desperate moment I'd take of hit of Skippy, Jif . . . or Walmart generic.

My name is Candace and I like peanut butter.

There are signs that I'm not alone in this comfort food crutch. Evidence this cocktail napkin that made me laugh out loud at a World Market store:

 In case you can't read it in the photo, here is what it says:

 "The pairing of wine and food is not complicated . . . I find chardonnay compliments leftover peanut butter and jelly triangles just as well as it does macaroni and cheese." 

 Don't get me started on the subject of mac & cheese. I like the way it hugs,too.

Yes, comfort food. For whatever reason, we all have our favorites. And, as an author, I firmly believe that a well-written, believable character  should have a few comfort quirks, too.  Like our very determined ER Director Kate Callison from my upcoming release, RESCUE TEAM.  In this short scene snippet, we see Kate grabbing comfort food in the midst of a terrible-awful day at Austin Grace ER:

Lauren sat down opposite Kate at a table outside the ER. She eyed Kate’s paper plate. “What on earth is that?”

“Muff—mmph, excuse me.” Kate swallowed a couple of times, dabbed at her lips. “Sorry. Whole wheat English muffin. Peanut butter, cream cheese, and orange marmalade—as much as I could scrape out of the last little foil package in the staff refrigerator.  I needed . . .” Peanut butter . . . and peace. She smiled sheepishly. “Comfort food. Don’t judge.” 

“Cross my heart. I’ve seen the bottom of a few Blue Bell ice cream cartons myself.” Lauren tipped her head. “I figured things were bad when you asked the ICU if they could spare me for a few hours.”

“You can’t know how much I appreciate you helping out. And being the one friendly face in my hostile world.” Kate frowned. “Legal came to see me.”

“Can I assume that means Barrett Lyon?” 

“He had the nerve to ask me to lunch minutes after describing his plan to defend the hospital from any possible litigation that might happen as a result of Baby Doe. Which could include pointing the finger at individual staff. Throwing any or all of us to—” 

“The Lyons,”  Lauren finished. “Pun intended. That man sure does seem intent on proving my mom’s advice that good-lookin’ isn’t nearly good enough.”
Of course, I had to research it: 

Mmm. Yes, heroine-worthy.

But then, sometimes it's possible to combine your favorite comfort food into a wholesome recipe, which of course absolves your from all guilt. Like this recipe that I've teased folks with on Facebook a few times : Creamy Peanut Squash Soup. Lovely color, and a rich delicious taste--peanut butter, hint of curry, a bit of fresh basil, too! 

Doesn't that look tasty simmering on the stove?  Here's the recipe, right off of my (peanut butter daubed) card: 

1 large butternut squash--pierce skin, bake 45 minutes @ 350, peel, seed, cut into chunks
2 cans of chicken broth
1 cup milk 
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tsp. ground curry
1/4 tsp tobasco sauce (or less/more to taste)
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts
seasoned salt

Process baked squash cubes with 1 can of broth til smooth
In 5 qt. pan mix squash, remaining broth, milk, peanut butter, spices. Heat slowly until soup boils (approx 20 min.).
Thin, if necessary, with some extra broth
Season with salt, tobasco as desired.
slice basil, chop peanuts (and I like a dash of freshly grated nutmeg as well)

Top soup and serve
Serves about 6 people

Note: I have used skim milk and Almond Milk in this recipe--turned out fine.  I often use the already peeled, cubed squash available in grocery stores now. And I skip another step by using an immersion blender right in pan, instead of using the food processor.

Here's a pic of the finished soup, a favorite in the Calvert kitchen:

Now, your turn:  Who wants to share a bit about your own comfort food? C'mon now, gotta love a food that offers a hug . . . 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Full Caff, Half-Caff, Decaf: What's Your Brew?

When I posted this early morning photo on Facebook last fall, my brother reportedly commented (in wry, paleontologist humor, no doubt): "Look, she's built a coffee shrine." 

In my defense, I'd argue that the photo was meant to highlight the little patch of fall color in the window-- a view I love, complete with hummingbird feeder. But my big brother is admittedly a coffee-hound and recognizes his own kind as readily as he can identify a dinosaur bone fragment. Which he may indeed use as a coffee stirrer. 

 I love coffee. I love the way the grounds smell on my fingers after I add 8 scoops to the basket of our Cuisinart at bedtime. And I especially love the gurgle-whoosh of the coffee maker in the morning, the rich aroma of my favorite brew wafting through the house in cozy, dark, pre-dawn hours. On deadline, sometimes I'm up before the hummingbirds. 

Coffee has made an appearance in all of my books. In fact,  it was almost a character in Disaster Status. 

Those of you who've read this second Mercy Hospital book, may remember a quirky ocean view coffee shop called "Arlo's Bait & Moor."  Here's a snippet of a scene set there:


Annie Popp glanced first at Scott and then at Erin, and in an instant Erin felt strangely self-conscious in a bait shop she’d visited all her life. But then, she’d never walked in here with the best-looking man she’d ever met. Don’t say anything, Annie. Please.

“Hey, Annie,” Erin began casually, inhaling the rich scent of coffee and what she’d bet were fresh-baked lemon bars. “How’s it—?”

“Well, would you look at this?” The gray-haired proprietress set down a pair of needle-nose pliers, and a grin lit her sun-weathered face. “My Sea Dog black and my Starfish Latte extra cinnamon. Together.” She swept aside several pieces of sea glass and driftwood, then planted her palms on the counter, sighing as if the planets had finally aligned. “Praise God, it’s about time.”

“About time?” Scott asked.

“That you two met, of course.” Annie nodded and her earrings, blue glass and silver beads, swayed back and forth. “I told Arlo it makes no sense; you battling that cold ocean like a tortured soul every morning. All alone. And you, Erin. How many summers have you been coming here with your grandmother? And your grandfather, may he rest in peace. I’ll never forget that Labor Day weekend Iris was sewing your Wonder Woman costume. You paraded down here in your bathing suit twirling a gold lasso, with that crown sitting lopsided over your pigtails and all those ‘magic’ bracelets. Skinned knees, no front teeth, and knee-high to a grasshopper. But you doubled up your little fist and told us you were ready to fight.”

Erin groaned. 

Scott chuckled low in his throat. “Trust me, Annie. She’s still fighting.” 

The only issue I seem to have with coffee is the caffeine. In the past year or so, we've gone from full-jolt, to half-caff, and now to de-caf. Here's why:

Yup, my heart perking along at 220 this past Thanksgiving. Nearly swooned into my mashed potatoes--talk about drama! Paramedics in the house, fire truck outside, wide-eyed grand children. Apparently this medical fiction author will stop at nothing for research. And, fortunately, it all turned out just fine. Still . . .

Though caffeine didn't directly cause the excitement, I see no sense in flirting with this scenario again.  So this is my "coffee shrine" update:

Hazelnut Decaf, unsweetened Almond Milk. I still get the pre-dawn gurgle and whoosh, the wafting of lovely aroma. Warm cup, great taste. But no side order of firefighters, paramedics and the ER team--I prefer that those good folks stay in the pages of my fiction

Not that I'm always good: I recently met an aspiring author at Peet's coffee. She graciously offered to treat me, recommending the Blueberry Mocha. I ordered it decaf, with soy milk. Then the server raised his brows: "You want to top that with whipped cream?"

Sometimes you gotta walk on the wild side.

So, your turn. What's your favorite brew? Coffee, tea? At home or at a coffeehouse? What do you add to it? Do you have a favorite mug, special spot to sit and savor? Do share!

** An author feature, review and giveaway of DISASTER PLAN may be found at Linda Maendel's wonderful blog. Visit her here: Hutt-Write Voice.  **

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Pinch of Poison: Guest author Jordyn Redwood

(2/22/13 2:27 PM: Congratulations to our giveaway winner: Cheri Swalwell! )

I thought this would get your attention! 

No, of course this isn't an ingredient in any recipe you'll see here on Authors' Galley. But that my very first kitchen guest is the author of a book called POISON seemed more than intriguing. Popular medical thriller author Jordyn Redwood agreed: "That's suspense author perfection!"

Truthfully, I pulled a bit of  bait-and-switch on Jordyn, because she'd offered this post before I switched the blog venue to "mansuscripts & wooden spoons." But this fellow nurse is fast on her feet, a skill required of folks who spend long hours in scrubs, jogging the corridors of ER. So, though Jordyn readily admits she's not the cook in the family, she is the Christmas Cookie Mom. " . . . the one who deals with rolling out the sugar cookies and supervising Christmas cookie decorating which is always a melee of sprinkles, frosting mayhem and things getting colored that maybe shouldn't (like the dog's nose!)."

To prove it,  Jordyn offered this peek into her kitchen, featuring a couple of adorable Christmas elves:

I'd say that's a happy kitchen!

And now (cue the suspense music)  let's move on to some POISON, shall we? 

If you haven't read Jordyn's work, you're in for a treat--if you've read Proof  (the first book in the exciting Bloodline Trilogy) then I suspect you've been waiting impatiently for Poison.
Well, the wait is over--it has released!  And, trust me, it was worth the wait. You'll find my enthusiastic endorsement in the opening pages:

“Jordyn Redwood’s Poison delivers compelling characters, intrigue,
chills, dizzying twists that leave the reader gasping—then offers a perfect
antidote: hope.”—Candace Calvert, best-selling author of
Code Triage and Trauma Plan

To whet your appetite (yes, food pun intended), here's the back cover description:

Five years ago, Keelyn Blake's armed, mentally ill stepfather took her family hostage in their house in rural Colorado. She and her half-sister Raven made it out alive, but others did not. Authorities blamed the father's frequent hallucinations about a being named Lucent, but in the end, even the best of the FBI's hostage negotiators failed to overcome the man's delusions and end the standoff peacefully.

Now, Lucent is back, and he's no hallucination. In fact, he is a very real person with dangerous motives. He has kidnapped Raven's daughter, and--Keelyn worries--maybe has hurt Raven as well. Though she is estranged from her sister, Keelyn feels the immediate need to find Raven and save what family she has left. But when others who were involved in that fateful day start dying, some by mysterious circumstances, Keelyn wonders if she can emerge unscathed a second time.


And finally, just for FUN, I thought I'd put Jordyn on the spot with what may well become a classic Authors' Galley question: 

Imagine a dinner scene with three characters from your book.  WHO are they, WHERE are they eating, WHAT has each person ordered, and what conversation topic would each person want badly to AVOID?

Here's Jordyn's answer:

" WOW. Such a great question.

They are eating at Shanahan’s Steakhouse.  

Keelyn Blake: The heroine. She’ll order a salad with a regular Coke to wash it down, and a wonderful piece of salmon to go with it. Then cheesecake for dessert and a fun cookie to take home for her niece, Sophia, that she is now caring for. Keelyn will not want to talk about anything associated with her mentally ill stepfather who is now in prison. 

Lee Watson: The hero. He’ll order the 22oz Prime Cowboy Bone-In Rib Eye with Black Truffle Butter and a side of the Truffled Cheddar Mac ‘n Cheese because being on SWAT does make for a hungry man. A side salad so Keelyn won’t feel bad about eating healthy. A dark ale type beer to wash it down. Dessert—he’ll just try a few bites of Keelyn’s cheesecake. Any conversation about his life before he was a cop is off limits and preferably any topics that cover children.

Gavin Donelly: The villain (or is he?) Gavin is all about putting on airs so he’ll order a Jumbo Australian Lobster Tail (which alone goes for $78.00) and add roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed wild mushrooms. For the table, he’ll buy a very expensive bottle of champagne to toast Lee and Keelyn who he never thought would sit down to have dinner with him. Dessert will be Crème Brule with fresh berries. He’ll probe Lee and Keelyn (after all—he is a psychiatrist) about their troubled families but absolutely not want to talk about his own—particularly the events that surrounded his father’s death. 

Thanks so much for having me back, Candace. I love visiting with your readers."

It was our pleasure, indeed, Jordyn! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your kitchen--and your work.

Now, as one last treat, our guest author has graciously offered to include a signed copy of Poison in a giveaway. Simply post a comment below (including an e-mail address), and your name will be entered in a random drawing. The winner will be chosen on Friday, February 22nd and be notified by e-mail. 

Good luck to you all . . . and Bon appetit! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Authors' Galley--Let's get cooking!

***  2/19 1:55 PM  HUGE congratulations to our book giveaway winner, AMBER G. ! ***

YOU MAY NOTICE that the look of this blog has changed. Spoons and spice and a big, grinning photo of ME in my scrubs, apron, Flintstone pearls and stethoscope. Manning my Santa red Kitchen Aid mixer. The medical fiction author in her reality kitchen, where herbs mix with metaphors all too often. Yes, I plot while I cook. And, vice versa:  readers will find that quite often I have cooking and food in the scenes of my novels. My two passions mixing like a whisk in a bowl of batter. Which leads me right back to the subject of the new look of this blog. I'm changing things up a bit. Here's what you can expect from AUTHORS' GALLEY:

  • Bi-weekly posts that incorporate (have fun with!) both COOKING and BOOKS. 
  • Glimpses into the kitchens of fellow authors--guests sharing recipes, cooking tips, recipes, memories, humor, photos, or even confessions of kitchen bloopers!
  • Snippets of books, sneak peeks at new work, and especially scenes/facts related to cooking (imagine the drama in the kitchen of Downton Abbey!)
  • Perhaps some book and cooking related giveaways
  • A give and take interaction between readers (yes, you)  and authors--we'll encourage you to "tie on the apron" and share your kitchen tidbits, too.
  • A chance to see your favorite authors (and discover new ones) in a different setting: their kitchens
When you have guests, doesn't everyone always ends up hanging out in the kitchen? It's sure that way at the Calverts. I'm hoping this blog is a place you'll do exactly that. So pull up a chair, grab an apron, and let's get started:

Today I'm sharing the recipe for the Lemon Pistachio Shortbread that had folks drooling on Facebook recently. Like many of my recipes, I found it online by searching ingredients. The search was prompted by a huge bag of Meyer lemons brought over by our next door neighbor. I served these cookies for dessert at a recent dinner party and they were a huge hit. Buttery, crisp, light, and the pistachios add  an unexpected nutty flavor that complements the tangy lemon juice and zest in the glaze topping. 

The only "fussy" part of the recipe is that shortbread crust is crumbly and you have to be a bit patient when rolling it out. But it's totally worth the effort, trust me. If you like lemon, this is your cookie. Plus, it makes your kitchen smell heavenly! Now that you're tempted, here's that recipe link:
Lemon Glazed Pistachio Shortbread. 

Because I also promised a book-related snippet, here is a teeny glimpse into Code Triage. Some of you may remember that the hero of this book is a San Francisco cop who was once a chef.  The story of a marriage in jeopardy,  this book has a continuing motif surrounding lemons. Here, hero Nick Stathos is reminded of his famous Greek lemon soup:

 “Avgolemono,” he said, the memories hitting him full in the heart. Their kitchen in their old Victorian fixer, always in stages of remodel; black granite counters, stainless steel, Leigh standing barefoot on the hardwood floor watching him as he cooked; teasing him about being a macho SFPD cop with a whisk in his holster. He’d offer her a sip of the creamy soup from a wooden spoon, she’d murmur with passionate approval then move into his arms, lifting her face for a kiss. Her lips would taste of lemons . . .

So there you go, that's the venue for my new blog. Talk of food. Recipe. Snippet from a book. And . . . oh yes, I mentioned the occasional giveaway, didn't I?
Let's do that.
Leave a comment below, telling me what you think of think of my new blog, Authors' Galley, and I'll add your name to a drawing for an advanced review copy of my upcoming release, RESCUE TEAM. Yes, you'll get to read it ahead of it's release!

Please leave your name and an e-mail. The winner will be chosen randomly on Tuesday, February 19th and will be notified by e-mail.

Thank you for stopping by my cyber kitchen. And stay tuned for my first guest author coming soon. Hint: Her kitchen talk will include (eek!) . . . Poison. 

Til next time, happy reading and . . . Bon appetit!