Friday, August 30, 2013

Hot Dog! Guest Authors: Caryn Rivadeneira & Anita Lustrea

**Weds. Sept. 4th, 11:38 AM: Congratulations to our giveaway winner, Diana Montgomery! And thank you ALL for stopping by to make my guests feel welcome**

Today's guests are each sought-after writers and speakers in their own right, and have recently combined talents for their first work of fiction: Shades of Mercy has just been released. 

Please join me in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for: Caryn Rivadeneira and Anita Lustrea! 

Food Lies and Maine Truths
By Caryn Rivadeneira

I tell two lies about food.

The first: “I gave up Diet Coke.” True enough I no longer buy it by the case and stock it in my fridge, and I no longer consume it daily. But really? When I’m having one of those days, when I have too much to do and have gotten too little sleep, I’m off like a (sluggish) shot to get my $1 Diet Coke at McDonald’s—or better, the 69 cent Big Gulp Diet at 7-11.

The other lie: I never eat hot dogs. Once again, I don’t eat them at home—though I do buy them for my kids. But any time any one has ever offered me one, I eat it. With mustard, celery salt and a pickle, please. I am Chicagoan, after all.

So naturally, when my co-author Anita Lustrea invited me over a few weeks ago to plot out book #2 in our Maine Chronicle series and offered me a Diet Coke and a Maine red hot dog, I jumped the chance. But not before adding, “I never eat hot dogs ….”

To be fair to me, I’d been dying to try one of these fabled hot dogs ever since Anita and I started working on our book Shades of Mercy together. Though the red hot dogs themselves don’t appear in the book, they were one of many culinary tidbits I picked up about Maine during the process.

Before we began our project, I was as likely as the rest of you to think Maine and think lobster. Right?

Turns out, they eat more than lobster rolls in Maine! Who knew? Well, my co-author did. And throughout the book-writing process it was her job to write about the vast and varied culinary delights that hail from the northern most parts of Maine.

Though I’d tried few of these foods, all of them left my mouth drooling and made me wonder how on earth I might get my hands on and mouth around some of the delicious food we wrote about. Anita was gracious enough to share some recipes here.

Maine Baked Beans with Molasses ( Famous Saturday Night Bean Supper)
1 lb. beans (jacob’s cattle beans or yellow eye beans)
3 T brown sugar
Scant T salt
½ t dry mustard
2 cloves garlic minced
dash salt and pepper
either small piece of salt pork, or several slices bacon cut up and added, or 1 T bacon grease
¼ C molasses
C ketchup
Wash and pick over beans and discard imperfect ones. cover with water and soak overnight. Discard water and put beans in 4 quart or larger pot. Cover with water and add other ingredients. Bring to a simmer and keep adding water all day, do not let go dry. simmer for approximately 6 hours.
Serve with fresh homemade bread or warm rolls.

Paul Millar’s Molasses Cookies
1 C molasses
1 C brown sugar
1 C shortening, margerine, or half butter, half lard
2 eggs beaten
2 t vinegar
2 t soda dissolved in 2 T water
(mix together above ingredients)
5 C flour
1 t salt
2 t ginger
½ t cloves
(sift together all dry ingredients, then add to wet ingredients)
Let stand until cold, or overnight in refrigerator
roll out and cut into ¾ inch thick cookies

bake at 400 degrees 8-10 minutes.

It's 1954 and the world-even the far Northwoods of Maine-is about to
change. But that change can't happen soon enough for fourteen-year-old Mercy Millar.
Long tired of being the "son" her father never had, Mercy's ready for the world
to embrace her as the young woman she is-as well as embrace the forbidden love she
 When childhood playmates grow up and fall in love, the whole
community celebrates. But in the case of Mercy and Mick, there would be no celebration.
Instead their relationship must stay hidden. Good girls do not date young men from
the Maliseet tribe. At least, not in Watsonville, Maine. When racial tensions escalate
and Mick is thrown in jail under suspicion of murder, Mercy nearly loses all hope-in
love, in her father, and in God himself.
Thank you, Caryn and Anita--my mouth is watering after reading that recipe for baked beans! 
And now, on to the giveaway. The generous Wynn-Wynn Media has put together this prize package:  A copy of Shades of Mercy and a very cute (Pier 1)  lemon soap set for the kitchen. 
For your chance at the giveaway, please leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address.  The winner will be chosen (via Random.Org) on Weds. September 4th.  U.S. entries only, please. 

Meanwhile, happy reading . . . and bon appetit! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cinnamon Eggs & Other Kitchen Risks: Guest Author Rachel Randolph

** Thursday Aug. 29 th 4: 50 PM: HUGE congratulations to our giveaway winner, Carol (reggiegreenleaf)--I know you are going to enjoy this charming book! Thank you ALL for stopping by the blog!** 

Today I am beyond delighted to share an apron with a young woman who began her career helping other authors via marketing and publicity. She is now very excited to be "on the author side of this equation." Her charming debut, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook,  co-written by her mother, has just been released. Humor, memoir, recipes--you can bet  I'm eager to get my "foodie" hands on it!

 Please raise your wooden spoons in a rousing Authors' Galley welcome for:
 Rachel Randolph.

Cinnamon Eggs, Tofu Scramble, and Other Risks in the Kitchen

 Rachel & husband Jared at a coaches’ marriage retreat as newlyweds
When we were newly married, my husband Jared surprised me one morning with a homemade breakfast. I sat down to a plate of fluffy scrambled eggs and buttered toast, and he watched with eagerness as I took a bite. I did my best to chew and swallow without gagging … but it wasn’t easy. “Did you notice something different about them?” he asked, like a proud child looking for compliments on the special mud pie he’d made. I looked down at my plate scooting the eggs around with my fork, trying to make it look like I’d eaten more than I had. “Yes, yes, I did.”

“What’s in them?” I asked, finally letting my eyes meet his.

“Cinnamon! Do you like them?” He beamed with pride.

We’d come to a crucial moment in our relationship. Do I tell him they are one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted and risk stomping on his creative cooking spirit or do I lie and risk choking back cinnamon eggs for every forthcoming special occasion?

It was a tough call, but I went with mostly honest. “They are interesting.”

“You don’t like them do you? It’s okay, I thought you might not,” he said, a little deflated, as he took my plate. “I’ll make you some regular ones. I like ‘em, so I’ll eat ‘em.”

Oh those cinnamon eggs! Every time I think of them, I smile. They remind me how much Jared loved his new bride and how he wanted to impress me and make me feel special. It made for a funny story and a sweet memory. I’m usually all for adventurous flavor combos, but we discovered I was a traditional salt and pepper on my eggs kind of gal that morning, and we set a precedent for honest feedback when it came to cooking for each other. Life is too short, and delicious food possibilities are too plentiful to eat food we don’t enjoy.

When we went vegan a few years later, we said goodbye to eggs in our diet. Of all the things we gave up, simple scrambled eggs were one of the harder foods to leave behind. I like a savory breakfast and when you take out sausage, bacon AND eggs, your options dwindle. Then I saw the Pioneer Woman, of all people, make tofu scramble. (Believe it or not, she’s a former vegetarian.) I thought that if tofu scramble was good enough for a vegetarian turned cattle rancher, maybe these Texans gone vegan could like it too.

 Jared was a proclaimed tofu hater and as we had discovered, I’m not real adventurous when it comes to eggs, but I went for it anyway. I used some of our favorite seasonings and veggies, and wrapped it in a tortilla. He eyed the tacos suspiciously, but like a good spouse, gave them a try with me. Through a mouth full, he gave me the thumbs up of approval. At last, we’d found a unique twist on scrambled eggs that we both equally enjoyed. The recipe for my Tofu Scramble Tacos is on the food blog I share with my co-author and omnivore mama.

In cooking and in relationships, sometimes you just have to spice things up and take a few risks. As my mom Becky Johnson and I wrote in our new food memoir, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook, “…preparing a good meal for our family and friends, is one of the ways we bond best. In spite of our quirks, somehow in the kitchen it works. And if it doesn’t work, it’s usually funny. Then it becomes a story. And the story becomes a memory, and that bonds us too.” 

Win a Copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook!

Rachel and her mom Becky are giving away a copy of their new food memoir with recipes, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom and Daughter Dish about the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them. Published by Zondervan and just released this month. Available in paperback, ebook, and audio (read by Becky and Rachel) on Amazon and other major book retailers.

How to Win:
Leave a comment and tell us the one person you’d love to cook a new adventurous risky recipe with and why.

The winner will be drawn (via Random.Org) on Weds. August 28th and notified by e-mail (you must include an e-mail address for a change to win)    US entries only, please. 

Thank you, Rachel, for joining us today.
Happy reading and . . . Bon appetit! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I'd Rather Be Writing : Guest Author Carla Olson Gade (giveaway)

**Weds. August 21st 2013 Congratulations to our giveaway winner, LORIN MUZE**

My guest today has been imagining stories most her life. Her love for writing and eras gone by turned her attention to writing historical Christian romance. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is represented by literary agent Chip MacGregor. She and her husband share their home in rural Maine where they reside near their two young adult sons and new grandson. Please wave your wooden spoon in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for
Carla Olson Gade.

I’d Rather Be Writing

For this historical fiction author, food takes on a bit of a nostalgic presence in my kitchen, as I’m sure it does in many kitchens.
 I have a collection of old family recipes that I treasure, some of them from old church cookbooks that feature my great-aunts, grandmother, and great-grandmother’s old New England recipes. These much loved and used spiral bound cookbooks are falling apart so when my own church put together a cookbook fundraiser to benefit our daughter church’s women’s homeless shelter I added some of the recipes for preservation. It was a fun project to be involved in and I again enjoyed pouring through the old cookbooks not just to peruse the recipes but some of the 
poems and extras they include in them.

I like to include food in my novels because it can evoke pleasant memories and emotions for people. Food can add interest to a scene. It brings the scene to life when the reader can imagine the smell and taste of something familiar. I research the setting of the story for authentic foods from the period and locale. We share some colonial recipes from 18th century cookbooks on the ColonialQuills blog. In my new release Pattern for Romance readers learn what they ate in colonial Boston, and what they didn’t eat as well. You might even learn of an interesting use for cinnamon from my novel. Here’s a passage from a birthday feast, though birthday celebrations were uncommon in colonial Massachusetts, the Sutton family from Pattern for Romance, continued the tradition privately from their Welsh roots.

Mother frowned and said, her inflection rising, “Well, hopefully he’ll grace us with an appearance.” And she smiled. “Come along, we have a grand feast about to be served for your birthday, son.”
            The foods were carefully laid out in platters on a table clad in white linen. A bit extravagant for a family who tried to temper luxury during such times, but mother insisted that it was a special occasion, to her akin to the King’s Birthday! After Father offered a word of thanksgiving and a blessing for Joshua, they partook of a bountiful meal. Salmon pie, breaded oysters, fresh asparagus, kabobs roasted on the spit—his favorites!
            “Mother, you have outdone yourself in preparing this fine menu.”
            “I would have liked to have served mutton kabobs instead of beef, but we know all the sheep are being spared for the wool for homespun,” Mother said.
            Joshua dabbed at his mouth with his napkin, stood and stretched. “Everything was delicious. My most hearty thanks.”

I haven’t really inherited the cooking gene in my family. I think it skipped a generation from my mother who was a home economics teacher for many years to my two adult sons who both enjoy cooking for a living. To tell you the truth, I have more fun decorating my kitchen than cooking in it. I tend to get very distracted in the kitchen and the strong pull of my writing projects often draws my impatient self to my computer, when I should be monitoring the pots and pans on the stovetop. When my sons are around they know Mom is in need of a rescue and they pitch right in. And I must add that I’m ever grateful that my husband can cook because cooking is usually the furthest thing from my mind when I’m on a writing deadline.

But since I do enjoy baking, I have a few specialties that have become family traditions. And I usually don’t burn them. For proof, I enjoy taking photographs of my creations. My husband thinks that’s strange, but it’s fun to share the pics on my blog or on facebook. Creativity is my thing and it is sometimes a hit or miss. Brown sugar and vanilla are my secret flavors to butternut squash and sweet potato. I like to add cream cheese filling to my pumpkin bread and cream cheese to my quiche.

“What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie.” John Greenleaf Whittier

I’m happy to share my great-grandmother’s recipe for Gingerbread, which I have no doubt was also passed along to her.

I’ll leave you with a prayer from one of my old cookbooks, and hope it will inspire you and especially me, in the sometimes mundane duties in our blessed kitchens.

Lord of all the pots and pans and things, since I have no time to be
A Saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee
Or dreaming in the dawn of light or storming Heavens gales,
Make me a Saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.
Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind;
And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
I think of how they trod the earth, the time I scrub the floors:
Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying and made all grumbling cease.
Thou who did’st love to give men food, in room, or by the sea,
Accept this service that I do — I do it unto Thee.

Mural on the Wall of the 1740 House, Kingston, MA
The Home of Gracious Dining

Carla, what a delightful post--you had me at "cinnamon!" And your excerpt was mouth-watering as well . . . 

Now, for a dollop of extra fun, the creative and generous Wynn-Wynn Media is offering a book-themed prize package for our giveaway: a copy of Pattern for Romance, a container of cinnamon AND a (very cute)  book-style sewing kit. 

To have a chance at winning, please leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address. The winning name will be chosen (via Random.Org) on Weds. August 21, and notified by e-mail. U.S. entries only. 

In the meanwhile, happy reading and . . . Bon appetit!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Prepare to Swoon: Guest Author Anita Higman (giveaway)

*Wednesday, August 14th, 3:36 PM* Congratulations to our giveaway winner, DIANA MONTGOMERY! 

My guest today is a best-selling and award-winning author who has over thirty books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. She loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. Please join me in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for

I Want to Make You Swoon

Anita Higman

I’d love to make you swoon—not over a dreamy-eyed kiss like in one of the scenes that I write for my novels—that will come later—but over the passion I have for food that is made from scratch. The words homegrown and homemade aren’t seen as often as when I was a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s.

Let me tell you about a few of the wondrous comestibles that I grew up with in Oklahoma. First of all, since my parents had a farm—with an orchard, a garden, and a barnyard full of pigs, chickens, and cattle—we grew almost everything ourselves. It was an amazing way to live and eat!

I recall my father making homemade sausage out on our old porch. The aroma of that pork being mixed with cracked pepper and an array of spices was an intoxicating experience. I long for a whiff of that scent once more, but I have never smelled it anywhere since. My dad also made homemade pickles in a crock. I remember that he would pull those green beauties out of the crock from time to time to make sure they were ruminating in the dill and spices and vinegar properly. I still smile, thinking of the pleasure of crunching into one of those half-crocked cukes.
Then when our family drove into the local towns of Clinton and Custer to visit their parents, my grandmothers showered us with delicacies, such as homemade noodles made on a bread board and set out to dry on a table. Who does that anymore? Both grandmothers made chowchow—a special kind of relish—but my Grandmother Metzler made a heavenly concoction called watermelon pickle. Now there’s an unusual treat that no one talks about anymore.

And, of course, when we entered my grandmothers’ domain we also had to be ready for some serious, homemade sweets. There was hand-cranked ice cream, fudge and divinity candies made the old-fashioned way, cherry cobbler, German coffee cakes, and rhubarb pie. Oh, my! Are you swooning yet? Good.

Kitchen tip: Here I am in my kitchen, trying to make homemade fried okra just like my mom made. It turned out tasty, but not great. I'm going to give it another try tomorrow. The trick with fried okra is to cut it into thin pieces before dipping it into the egg and then the flour mixture. Cook the okra slowly enough so they're tender on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside.

Now, I have something that I hope will give you the dreamy-eyed kind of swooning. Here’s a slice of my new novel, Winter in Full Bloom,which takes place in the heroine’s kitchen while she’s trying to cook dinner along with the hero. But the two of them keep getting distracted—not with the spaghetti they’re making—but with each other’s lips.

“I promise they’ll be no hint of those dastardly words fiancée or wedding.” He let me go. “At least not yet anyway.”
I chuckled. “Okay.”
“Unless, of course, you bring it up and you force the nuptial issue.” He went back to his work at the counter. “Then I might have to reconsider.”
“No. There’ll be no arm twisting from me.”
“Believe me, you wouldn’t have to twist my arm at this point. My theory is . . . it might only take a kiss.”
I shook my head at him, but a grin was not far behind. It grieved me that my sister had waited too long for a man to propose to her, and yet it felt like Marcus wanted to pop the question way too soon. Why did things have to be so complicated? So backward? “Mmm.
It might only take a kiss. That has a starry-eyed sound to it . . . like a line a writer might use.”
“Owww.” Marcus winced. “Ouch.”
I grinned. “I’m not the only one around here who can tease.”
He dropped his work again and strolled over to me. “Maybe it’s more than a line. Maybe it’s a romantic theory worthy of further study.” He lowered his gaze to my lips.
One hand pushed him away while another pulled him to me. “Sounds delicious, but we’re never going to get supper done at this rate.”
He locked his eyes on me. “There’s more to sustenance than mere food, woman.”
“I forgot to ask you what you thought of my mother.”
He tilted his head at me. “I think she has issues that can be resolved, but this isn’t the best time to chat about your mother.”
“I agree.”
The embrace took a more meaningful turn then, and even though the sauce was spattering all over the stove, and the pasta pan was nearly boiling dry, we hovered toward each other.
Marcus whispered in my ear, “I think I’d like to test this theory of mine . . . that it might only take one good kiss to summon a proposal.”
“Well, I can’t guarantee anything,” I whispered back, “but I’d certainly hate to be a hindrance to your research.”

Well, I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of my latest novel, Winter in Full Bloom. Oh, and bon appétit! 

(Fanning myself with a pot holder) Definitely swoon-worthy! Both the yummy food AND the romantic cooking scene. Great excerpt, Anita. A wonderful glimpse into your kitchen and your "from scratch" memories. I'm still chuckling at the "half-crocked cukes." 

Now, for our giveaway: Wynn-Wynn Media is offering a delightful combination of Anita's novel Winter in Full Bloom, some Tazo tea and a beautiful Dayspring mug
To be included, leave a comment below, including your e-mail address so I can contact you. The winner will be selected (via Random.Org) on Weds. August 14th. 

Much luck to you all! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deadlines & Crockpots, Cajun Style: Guest Author Kathleen Y'Barbaro (Giveaway)

** Weds. August 7th 1:30 PM Congratulations to our giveaway winner: Katrina E! ***

Today I'm super-excited (and proud to share an apron with) a best-selling author, proud military wife and a tenth-generation Texan-- now cheering her beloved Aggies from north of Red River. With forty-five novels (nearly two million copies) in print in the US and abroad, this amazing lady has been nominated for a Carol Award, a RITA award, Reader's Choice Award, Career Achievment Award . . . and many more! On top of all that, she's a great cook! 

Please raise those wooden spoons in a big Authors' Galley salute to our special guest, 
Kathleen Y'Barbo!


Three years ago, I was a single mom of four grown kids who thought popcorn was a suitable meal—except for breakfast, of course—and that restaurants were a fine substitute for cooking at home. I hadn’t always been an absent chef. When my children were young, I loved making dinner for the family. Most mornings, they went off to school with a home-cooked breakfast, too. I was the mom. Cooking is what I did. 

  Then came the nearly empty nest years when all three of my sons had flown off to college and work, leaving only my daughter and me to fend for ourselves at mealtime. Between Hannah’s cheerleading and dance activities and my fulltime job as a paralegal, fussy dinner arrangements went by the wayside. Those nights when we didn’t go out were spent making salads or something quick on the grill. Other times, we ordered in and enjoyed the plethora of delivery options our Texas town offered. Boiling the water for tea became my biggest culinary achievement of the week.  
            With Hannah off at college, I moved from a home to a third-floor condo with no elevator and little incentive to purchase large quantities of groceries. This ushered in the popcorn years, happily interrupted in times of kid visits and summer vacations. But mostly, my cookbooks gathered dust, as did my stove. I will confess that I wasn’t as bad as my friend whose oven was used as storage for mail that needed sorting (true story). Until Thanksgiving morning when she attempted to cook turkey for her husband and immediate family, she had no idea the oven had never been properly installed when they built their dream home almost a year before.
            But I digress…
            Life as I know it changed on October 9, 2010, when I married my hero in combat boots and moved north of the Red River to where a fully stocked kitchen and several hungry teens awaited my cooking. Did I mention two of them were teenaged boys? In what felt like the blink of an eye, my empty nest was full again and so was my grocery list.

 Now the issue wasn’t whether to cook, but how much? And when? I had to relearn what I had forgotten in the years since my boys were home. Males, especially those of the under-twenty variety, love to eat. And salad is not a suitable meal. Nor is popcorn. It took some experimenting, and more than a little trust on their parts, but well before the hubs and I celebrated our first anniversary, I had these Okie teens eating—gasp—Cajun food, among other delicacies. 
Life bumped along quite nicely north of the border until deadline season hit. For non-writers, those are the weeks when the amount of words required to complete a book does not match up with the leisurely pace of time allotted for writing them. And thus I began to experiment with “deadline food”. The crockpot became my friend, and I began to create recipes around what I could toss into the pot without having to make a grocery store run.
            One of my stand-by recipes that I still keep in often rotation is Crockpot BBQ Chicken. This is a great two-ingredient dish that is literally a throw-it-in-and-forget-it entrée. To make this, simply stack frozen chicken breasts into the crockpot and then dump barbecue sauce over them. Cover and cook on low all day. Serve with corn, beans, and a salad. Delish!
            But what to do when plain chicken isn’t what you’re hungry for? Try my Black Bean and Mango Lime Chipotle Chicken. This dish begins by slicing fresh mango then tossing it into the freezer for a few hours or overnight before dumping it over a layer of frozen chicken breasts in the bottom of the crockpot. Top with black beans (I used canned but freshly cooked would be great too) and chipotle salsa. You could also use canned chipotle adjusted to take your taste level into consideration. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the dish and put the lid on. Don’t peek until suppertime, and then serve over rice with salt and pepper to taste. I promise, it’s worth the wait whether your nest is empty or full!

To learn more about Kathleen Y'Barbo, including her newest release, Millie's Treasure, you may find her at her website, and on Facebook and Twitter. 

Oh MY, your crockpot creations sound delicious, Kathleen--though I totally can imagine a meal of tea and popcorn . . .  Is that Greune Hall in one of those photos? I'm pretty sure I recognize it from our Texas days--memories of great music and eating at the Gristmill. 
Love your "tat!"
And so appreciate your joining us today.  

Now, for some added fun, Wynn-Wynn Media is offering a fabulous giveaway package, including a copy of Millie's Treasure, a Gooseberry Patch Cookbook & a cute potholder! To be included, please leave a comment below (with your e-mail address). US entries only. I will draw the winning name (via Random.Org) on Weds. August 7th and notify the lucky person via e-mail. 

Meanwhile, happy reading and . . . Bon appetit!