**August 25 2:37 PM CONGRATULATIONS to our giveaway winner, Deanna Stevens! And thank you all for stopping by to make Lisa feel welcome. I encourage you to check out her wonderful Winds of Change books. **
Who better to host in August than an author whose kitchen is in beautiful Martha's Vineyard? Especially when her meals are often beach fare and include tasty offerings from lobster to mac'n cheese and brownies. Trust me, your summer palate is going to be tickled today! When she’s not at her desk, today's guest is "living in paradise, volunteering at her daughter’s school, serving in her church community, planting and weeding her numerous gardens, trying to run a marathon a month, or walking the beach looking for sea glass." She was inspired to write Shenandoah Nights, the first book in her "Winds of Change" trilogy, while chaperoning two Tisbury School summer sails with her daughter, Kayla, aboard the schooner Shenandoah.
Please wave your wooden spoons in a rousing Authors' Galley welcome for Lisa Belcastro!
Beach Picnics and Brownies to Go
By Lisa Belcastro
Summer is in full swing on Martha’s Vineyard. President Obama is back for another vacation, and the warm weather entices us to head to the beach for sunset picnics and barbeques. At a park, one might worry about ants. On the beach, it’s a given that grains of sand are going to flavor whatever we’re eating. No one cares. The views are spectacular, and we try to hit our favorite beaches for dinner at least twice a week from June through September.
Some nights I’ll pick every available vegetable in my garden, toss them into a salad, grill a piece of steak or a few chicken breasts, pack the cooler and head off. Those are the easy meals. When I’m feeling more adventurous, I load the portable grill into the back of my Jeep.
I’m on my third grill. The first one was your basic charcoal briquettes variety. Ever try to cook burgers over a nice fire when you’ve forgotten the matches? Less than successful, let me assure you. My family survived on cucumber and tomato salad, potato chips, macaroni salad, and chocolate chip cookies. Not necessarily a bad meal, but not cheeseburgers topped with homegrown beefsteak tomatoes and sliced onions.
In what I thought was an intelligent move on my part, I purchased a propane grill. My new grill had a push-button starter to ignite the flame. No more matches. This blonde was getting smarter by the minute. First picnic of the summer, we decide lobster was a must. We headed to Menemsha, the Island’s premier sunset location. Menemsha is also a fishing village with two fabulous fish markets that will sell you fresh catches as well as cooked meals.
We stopped in to purchase live lobsters for grilling. They sales clerk parboiled our two-pounders, and we walked down to the beach with food, blanket, chairs, grill, and . . . I forgot the propane. Technically, I hadn’t forgotten it. My friend, who’d helped load the car back at my house, had undoubtedly left them on my front porch. Our sales clerk laughed, assured us it happened many times throughout the season, and threw our lobsters into their pot until they were done. It was a beautiful evening.
I learned my lesson. The latest portable propane grill, replacing the one that wore out, sits on a shelf in my garage next to the propane, next to the cooler, next to the beach bag. Everything for a sunset picnic is now in one place, except the food and drinks. So far, I haven’t forgotten our dinners.
This summer we’ve done more beach picnics than grilling. The garden is overflowing with vegetables that I cook up and bring in the hot-pack cooler. Last Sunday night we had mac ‘n cheese with kale and tomatoes, cucumbers and hummus, hot green bean and bacon salad, and a fresh berry tart for dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. More friends have arrived for a visit, so maybe I can plan the same menu? As I glance out the window, kale and tomatoes are bountiful, and that mac ‘n’ cheese recipe is my favorite.
In Shenandoah Dreams, the third book in my Winds of Change trilogy, Melissa Smith is a teacher chaperone aboard the fictionalized schooner Shenandoah. Though Melissa would never claim to be a good cook, she, and everyone else onboard the ship, appreciates Nick’s cooking.
In real life, the meals aboard the Shenandoah are so good the students and chaperones rave about the food for weeks after they return home. Hearty breakfasts, lunches served topside, and delicious dinners are the daily fare. The kids probably love the desserts best, but who doesn’t?
The satisfied mumbles of boys and girls, who had gobbled down heaps of vegetable lasagna and now were gabbing amongst themselves with mouths full of Nick’s double-chocolate brownies, filled the saloon. Melissa sat at the starboard table with Captain Roberts. She enjoyed his nightly talks after dessert. Over the years, she’d learned different sailing topics, been enthralled by folklore stories, grinned at the many superstitions, and tried to sort facts from exaggeration in his stories.
The light was fading quickly outside, and darkness crept through the skylights. Tucker turned the wick up higher in the oil lamps. A warm glow filled the room. In a different situation, say, with one man and no children, it might have been romantic.
Melissa reined in her sentimental notions. Too many times in one day she’d thought about dating. Something strange was definitely happening during this cruise. She had no interest in dating and no interest in the Townshend Act either.
Hoping to clear her vision, or at least the ideas running through her mind, Melissa rubbed her eyes. When she opened them, she saw Amber returning from the head. The little minx convinced one of the boys to slide down on the bench, and she managed to claim the seat to Zane’s right. The first mate had definitely made a new friend.
A few arms reached across the table, trying to score what was left of the brownies.
More than two-thirds of the sweets were consumed. Captain Roberts had about half an hour of their attention span before the sugar high wore off and the students began yawning and nodding off. Melissa couldn’t wait to hear what his topic would be. She needed something else to concentrate on, and his forty-plus years on the water gave him more than enough material. None of which had ever included dating or marriage.
***I enjoyed that teaser, Lisa, and I'm craving a taste of that macaroni and cheese! I'm going to have to pester you for the recipe. Sounds amazing.
And now, as an extra treat, the wonderful Wynn-Wynn Media is offering a chance at a fabulous giveaway:
All three books in the Winds of Change series, PLUS a kitchen towel set. So fun!
For your chance at the giveway, please leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address. I will draw the winning name (via Random.Org) on Monday, August 25th, and notify the lucky person by e-mail. Entrants with U.S. mailing addresses only, please.
Meanwhile, happy reading and . . . Bon apetit!