Thursday, September 26, 2013

Home Shopping: I'm Not Talkin' QVC

If you've been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know that just 2 days before I was due to fly to Indianapolis for the American Chrisian Fiction Writers conference, I had to cancel. Because I broke my ankle. Trust me, I would like to say that I did it skydiving or running with the bulls in Pamplona (like our hero Jack Travis in Trauma Plan). But the truth is I slipped on an ACORN, rolled my foot and broke my fibula. The dangers of autumn!

The doctor gave me the option of a cast or a walking boot--I'm sure you can guess which I chose:

Saying that I was disappointed not to be able to attend the conference--meet with agent, editors, fellow writers, other members of the publishing team  (and a reader I'd planned to meet for breakfast!) is an understatement. But it didn't stop me from dressing up for the Awards Gala and following all the excitement vicariously through Wynn-Wynn Media's "Live Blog: :

 Do you think the cane adds classy touch?

Being kept down for several weeks is putting a cramp in my style for sure, but at least I don't type with my feet!

For a "foodie" like me, one of the hardest things is not being able to go to the grocery store. My hubby is SO sweet and helpful, but grocery shopping isn't his passion--you can imagine the look on his face when I handed him a list and then waxed poetic on how to choose the best quality mushrooms. In truth, he did pretty well with just grabbing a huge handful and dumping them into the bag. 

He tried to talk me into trying one of those electric shopping cars, but I had a flashback to my first driving experience: ran my mother's Corvair Monza into the old piano we kept in our garage--I had yet to master reverse gear.

So today tried something I'd heard of: online grocery shopping with delivery.

 Propped the leg up, grabbed my mouse and clicked away, aisle by aisle through my neighborhood grocery store. Bread, pasta, frozen goods, milk, paper towels, the whole gamut right on to organic produce.
And that's where I got a little teary-eyed. There is no way to fondle fruits and veggies through a computer screen.
 Impossible to sniff a melon, press a fingertip against a nectarine.
This is real problem for me. The shopping "experience" includes that, along with reading labels, chatting with the produce people, inhaling the yeasty aromas from from the bakery . . . feasting on it all (I've been known to photograph grocery displays!) , enjoying the way it gets my creative cooking juices flowing. 

On the other hand, I do know lots of folks who hate to grocery shop. Enjoy it about as much as a root canal.

I'm guessing there are people who are someplace in the middle: can take it or leave it.

So I'm curious about YOU:

How do you feel about grocery shopping?

Have you ever tried online grocery shopping with home delivery?

Postscript: 4:00 PM (two hours earlier than expected) The grocery delivery has arrived--carried to my kitchen, quite politely:

I'm impressed. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Easy as Pie: Bestselling Author Julie Cantrell (giveaway)

**Thursday Sept. 26th 11:45 AM** CONGRATULATIONS to our giveaway winner, Nancy E.! 
My guest today is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the Christy Award winning Book of the Year 2013 and recipient of the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. The sequel, When Mountains Move released September, 2013. She and her family live in Mississippi where they operate Valley House Farm. Please wave your wooden spoons and join me in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for Julie Cantrell! 

(I love that Julie has opted to answer one of my favorite Authors' Galley questions):

What would the characters of WHEN MOUNTANS MOVE order if they all gathered at a restaurant?

Well, Millie, my main character, would likely order something inexpensive and nothing to call attention to herself. Perhaps a baked potato or soup. And then she would share it with others at the table, not wanting to take too much for herself.
Her husband, Bump, would probably dive into a juicy Ribeye, while Fortner would just hunt his own dinner and avoid the stuffy constraints of a restaurant.
Because these books are set during the WWII era, Oka may not be allowed to dine in the restaurant due to her Choctaw heritage, and Mabel (who is featured more prominently in INTO THE FREE) certainly would not be allowed to dine with the others due to the color of her skin. Especially in Mississippi where the story first takes root.
Kat would order something expensive, and then she’d take tiny nibbles, declare she was stuffed, and waste the entire dish.

Here in my real life at Valley House Farm, where I live and operate a small-scale sustainable, organic farm with my family, we like to eat fresh fruits and vegetables from our harvests. As I’m writing this post, our pear tree is dropping gifts by the dozens, so today I thought I’d teach you how to make a yummy, scrummy pear pie...all from scratch.

You can choose a pie crust from the store or a recipe of your choosing, but here’s how we make a simple, no-fail homemade crust. The only trick is to use ICE cold water and cold unsalted butter (not margarine). Roll crust and press into greased pie pan (I prefer glass or porcelain for more even distribution of heat).

·         2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
·         1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon sugar
·         6 to 10 Tbsp ice water


Mix flour, salt, and sugar together. Then add slices of cold butter, cutting it into the dry ingredients (or using a food processor if you have one. I don’t...sigh.) Mix until a course mixture forms, leaving bits of butter in the dough...that’s what makes a “flaky” crust. Slowly incorporate cold water until you form a dough. Spread dough on flat surface sprinkled with flour and knead lightly, shaping the dough into two disks. DO NOT OVER KNEAD. You can refrigerate these disks up to two days. I’m using one for a pie and one for a spinach quiche for dinner tonight. When ready, use a rolling pin to flatten one disk. Then, place in greased pie pan and trim as needed. (Young kids can play with the extra dough.)

Then, you pick the pears. Okay, if you don’t have a beautiful pear tree offering you fresh fruit each morning, you can pretend! Visit your local farmers market and try to support local growers. (Note, pears can be substituted with any kind of apples, but the green ones such as Granny Smith usually taste best in this kind of pie.)

·         ¾ cup sugar
·         1 tsp. cinnamon
·         Dash or two  nutmeg
·         6-7 green apples or 8-9 pears, peeled and sliced thin
·         1 ½ TBSP butter
·         (1 unbaked pie shell)

·         ½ cup butter
·         ½ cup brown sugar
·         1 cup flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the pears, saving the scraps for the compost pile or the chicken coop. If you don’t have compost or chickens, I bet pinterest has some snappy way to craft pear peelings into a swanky fall centerpiece or something even Martha Stewart never thought of. I’m not that crafty, but our chickens are happy.

Slice pears into thin slivers (the smaller, the more tender they will taste in the pie, so don’t get lazy here.) Our horses love to nibble on the leftover cores.

Mix cinnamon and sugar. (You can certainly substitute sugar with no-cal/low-cal sweeteners like Splenda, etc. I prefer to use natural ingredients such as raw sugar or stevia. Today, for photo purposes, I’m using plain white sugar.) Add a dash or two of ground nutmeg. (Sometimes I add three or four.)
Mix pears lightly in with cinnamon and sugar and nutmeg, so they are completely coated.
Place pears into pie crust heat about 5-10 minutes until warmed through. Dot with butter when you remove the pie from warming.
Mix the crumble topping ingredients while pears are heating. Again, you’ll cut these together or use a food processor to blend a course crumble consistency. Then, sprinkle topping over the pears and bake for 30 minutes-45 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream. YUM! (Remaining pie can be stored in fridge for a few days and reheated as needed.)

When Mountains Move, by Julie Cantrell, is the sequel to the Christy Award winning Book of the Year and Debut Novel of the Year, Into the Free, which earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and became both a New York Times and USA TODAY bestseller.

It is the spring of 1943. With a wedding and a cross-country move, Millie’s world is about to change forever.

If only her past could change with it.

Soon after the break of day, Bump will become Millie’s husband. And then, if all goes as planned, they will leave the rain-soaked fields of Mississippi and head for the wilds of the Colorado Rockies. As Millie tries to forget a dark secret, she hasn’t yet realized how drastically those past experiences will impact the coming days.

For most of Millie’s life, being free felt about as unlikely as the mountains moving. But she’s about to discover that sometimes in life, we are given second chances, and that the only thing bigger than her past … is her future.

Learn more at

Oh, Julia what a delightful post! I'm alternately intrigued (by your characters!), laughing, drooling, and sighing . . . I SO love that you have an organic farm--my fantasy. Including the compost, chickens and horses.C I loved that our Texas home bordered a very large ranch, and I could toss veggie/fruit leftovers to eager deer horses, cows . . . and goodness knows what else after darkness closed in!  And your pear pie: I can smell it from here. "Yummy scrummy" indeed!

Now for some extra fun, the fabulous Wynn-Wynn Media is offering a great giveaway package: A copy of When Mountains Move, a DaySpring mug, and some Tazo tea--ALL perfect accompaniments to a slice of that fresh pear pie!

To be included in the giveaway, please leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address. US entries only. The winner be chosen (via Random.Org) on Thursday September 26th and notified by e-mail.

Meanwhile, happy reading and . . . Bon appetit! 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shampoo ala Mode: It's Peachy

Because I've had several requests for this recipe (and I'm busy packing for the ACFW conference), I'm going to repeat this post. Enjoy! 


I see that confusion on your face.

You're thinking, "What does shampoo have to do with ice cream and peaches?  Yes, I do enjoy teasing you. We'll get to the shampoo and ice cream. But first, let's start with the peaches. A yummy recipe you can tuck away for summer--and my husband's favorite:

Cobbler ala Calvert

4 cups sliced peaches, sprinkle with a Tbl. lemon juice (if using frozen peaches--2 pkg-- omit lemon juice)

Mix in med-lg. saucepan:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tb. corn starch
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

Cook over med heat, stirring, until thickened

Add 1 Tbl. butter, 1 Tbl. Grand Marnier liqueur (optional) and sliced peaches. Cook 5 minutes.

In another bowl mix:
1 cup flour
2 Tbl. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cut in 1/4 cup cold butter until crumbly
then add 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup buttermilk
Stir with fork til mixed

Pour peach mixture into deep pie pan
Spoon cobbler onto top of peaches in tablespoon size mounds

Bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for approx. 25 min., or golden brown
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream--enjoy!

I like using sun-warmed summer peaches:

With a few yummy, rich extras:

While the peaches are simmering, mix the cobbler dough:

Spoon it onto the warm peaches and it's ready for the oven: 

Bake until golden--can you smell it yet?

And now for that ice cream . . . or in this case, gelato:

Be still my heart: Peach Cobbler--all you need is a spoon:

There you are.  Oh, what about the shampoo?  And what's that got to do with peaches?
Everything, in this romantic snippet from TRAUMA PLAN. 

Our hero and heroine enjoy a romatic sunset view overlooking a Texas peach orchard:

“Well . . .” He slid the blanket from under his arm. “Sun’s sinking fast now. Let’s find a spot without cactus and fire ants and get set for the show.”

Riley helped to spread the blanket and sat, not surprised that Jack settled close beside her. After the plane, the dancing, and sharing so much over the past couple of weeks, it felt natural. Visiting his hometown and this beautiful place made her want to know even more about him. Despite Jack’s reckless reputation—which he managed to bolster at every opportunity—Riley sensed some vulnerability when it came to his family. We have that much in common. 

There,” he said, pointing toward the west. “First streaks of pink. The peach blossoms are that same color. In March, sunsets are pink from sky to tree . . . to the shower of petals on the ground below. My aunt called it Ballerina Valley—not the best tactic to recruit a boy for orchard labor.”

“You worked here?” she asked, easily imagining him as a boy, sun-browned, scurrying up a ladder. “Picking peaches?”

“Picked them, ate them, pitched them. And squashed the mushy ones on my sister’s head.” Jack touched a fingertip to Riley’s hair, a smile teasing his lips. “I invented peach shampoo.”
Of course, you'll have to read the book to see how it all plays out.

And grab some of those summer's end peaches and surprise someone you love with a great dessert . . . I think you're going to enjoy both.

Meanwhile, I'm off to Indianapolis for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference. Where I'll have a chance to chat with readers, fellow authors, aspiring authors, agents, editors and other industry professsionals--including several folks you have welcomed here in the cyber kitchen!

Happy reading, friends, and . . . Bon appetiti!