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

•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

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:

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!