Tuesday’s Table: My New Obessions

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Quinoa

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Very yummy and one of our family’s favs!

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small English cucumber, chopped

1 small red onion, cut crosswise in half, thinly sliced

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil Greek Feta Dressing, divided

10 cups of torn romaine lettuce

1/2 cup of feta cheese

(I make my own vinaigrette salad dressing with 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard, 1 clove of minced garlic, salt and pepper)

Directions

Rinse quinoa unless the packaging says it’s unnecessary. Doing this gets rid of the bitterness. Bring broth and quinoa to boil in saucepan on high heat, simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. (You can also tell it’s done when it develops a tiny white ring around the grain.) Cool.

Combine tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup of dressing, toss to coat.

Cover platter with lettuce, top with quinoa, tomato mixture, cheese and remaining dressing.

I usually serve it with grilled chicken and you got yourself a healthy, filling meal. Also, it’s looks very impressive served on a large, rectangular platter. I wish I had a picture, but I don’t! Next time I make it I’ll definitely take a picture.

Are you showing up in any new places? Love quinoa? Hate it? Haven’t tried it yet?

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Tuesday’s Table: Sweet Treats

FTRWeek

You know what goes great with conversations about banned books? Hot chocolate with those little marshmallows sprinkled on top. Some of the sweetest treats go with the sweetest books. And some of the sweetest books are banned or challenged books, like Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson or My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis.

Some of my children’s favorite stories have shown up as banned books. My son loves A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. My daughter loves James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. We all love the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. We spent a lovely winter weekend when my son was six and my daughter was four in a cabin with no television and no stereo reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone aloud. A dozen years have past but I still hold that weekend close in my memory. Toasty warm under layers of blankets, the scent of hot chocolate on the air, the taste of gooey sweet marshmallows on our tongues we journeyed with a boy wizard to a magical place that was as fascinating and it was treacherous.

You know what else goes well with childhood and books? Sweet treats. Remember those squares made with colored marshmallows, peanut butter and butterscotch chips? I’ve only had them a handful of times since I was a kid. They remind me of being a kid. Yummy! How about Rice Krispies cake? I loved coming home from school to find snacks and goodies waiting for me. I’d nibble away, read, and try to avoid my chores. I read a lot of books, banned and otherwise. Not that I knew it. Chances are no one in my house, including me, knew some poor-misguided, naysayer to our freedom of expression was challenging the books I was reading. Had they known they wouldn’t have cared, so there was nothing and no one to stop me from reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Want to start a conversation? Not quite sure how? Try reading Judy Blume’s “Places I Never Wanted To Be“.

Today it is not only Sex, Swear Words and Lack of Moral Tone — it is Evil, which, according to the censors, can be found lurking everywhere. Stories about Halloween, witches, and devils are an suspect for promoting Satanism. Romeo and Juliet is under fire for promoting suicide; Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, for promoting New Age-ism. If the censors had their way it would be good-bye to Shakespeare as well as science fiction. There’s not an ism you can think of that’s not bringing some book to the battlefield.

Our fears are not our children’s fears. Our thoughts are not theirs. Our preferences are not theirs. They should be free to browse and explore. If there is something they feel they can’t talk to an adult about hopefully they can find the answers in a book. Solace. Comfort.

What books did you love to read as a young child? What was your favorite after-school treat?

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Tuesday’s Table: The Scent of Cinnamon

cCinnamon Toast was a treat my Mom would make on those extra-cold winter nights. Chances are the smell of buttered toast sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon found me either hiding with a book or hunkered down in front of the television. Time to put down Anne of Green Gables or taken a break from watching Little House on the Prairie and go to the kitchen to investigate. There’s also a chance Mom might have found me studying Charlie’s Angels instead of math.

I bet everyone has a cinnamon story of their own. These days I enjoy it swirled on top of my Chai Tea Lattes. It’s amazing what a barrista can do with foam and cinnamon. But it’s the scent that takes me back to the cozy feeling of being safe and warm.

My mind is on those kinds of details these days. I’m putting the final touches on my work-in-progress. This next pass through is about adding those little details, channeling the five senses, imagining a specific experience and describing it on paper.

A little like cinnamon toast, it’s about mixing the exotic with the everyday.

FYI: That’s not all cinnamon has going for it. It’s also good for your health and useful in lowering blood sugar levels and increasing alertness. There are a bunch of other benefits but I’ll leave that for you to explore.

But just in case you’re interested here are some yummy ways to consume cinnamon. Besides the most delicious of way of all which is a cinnamon bun smeared with cream cheese icing. Because you don’t even want to know how many calories are in one of those bad boys. Or perhaps this is one of those cases where denial isn’t a good thing. You may enjoy rolling up the rim to win at Tim Horton’s but adding a glazed cinnamon roll will cost you 340 calories. Yikes.

  • Instead add a tablespoon to your pancake batter.
  • Stir 1/2 teaspoon into plain yogurt. Add the same amount of maple syrup.
  • Sprinkle over sweet potatoes or carrots. Add to thick curry flavored soups.
  • Add to chicken stews, grilled chicken or pork.
  • Coat 2 cups of raw nuts with a mix of 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and roast at 350F for 15 minutes.
  • Use a couple of shakes in your favorite smoothie.

Go ahead, eat tree bark.

Remember Big Red Gum? Enjoy Hot Tamales? What’s your favorite cinnamon flavored treat?

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Tuesday’s Table: A Soup Recipe and a Snippet

021It’s winter out there and nothing goes better with winter than soup. Good thing I LOVE soup. Soup has been around, well…forever. Or at least since the invention of ceramic pots, so since about 5000 B.C. I imagine my long-ago sisters found it as handy to serve as I. It also gets points for being cheap and nutritious.

With the scent of curry in the air and a bowl of rich, golden soup in front of you, you need something to read while you enjoy it. Why not go to my Home Page, scroll down and download The Storytellers’ Bouquet. It includes four free short stories from myself, Jana Richards, Lesley-Anne McLeod, and Annette Bower. Four very different stories that will warm your heart while the soup warms your belly.

My favorite soup scene from a movie goes to the 1996 version of The Birdcage with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Armond and Albert are putting on a false straight front for their newly engaged son, Val. Dinner is a debacle and the Guatemalan peasant soup (minus the shrimp) ends up being served in bowls patterned with nude young men. Hilarity ensues. That has got to be one of my favorite movie dinner scenes of all time.

Check below for the first couple of paragraphs of Waiting For Mason. Now onto the soup!

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into cubes
  • 1 Box of Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Can of Lite Coconut Milk
  • 2 Cans of Navy Beans (540 mL or 19 oz size)
  • 2 Stalks of Celery, Chopped
  • 2 Carrots, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Pressed
  • 2 TBSP Curry Powder
  • 1/2 TBSP Garam Masala (or a mixture of Nutmeg, All Spice and/or Cinnamon)
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Black Pepper

024Combine everything in a large crockpot. Simmer on low for 4 hours. Stick-blend in crockpot until smooth.

Or

Toss everything in a large stock pot and simmer until vegetables are soft. You can also use a traditional blender to cream the ingredients.

Waiting for Mason – A Short Story

In the waning light Willa Harris surveyed her version of the prettiest spot on earth. With its shelter of wolf willows and cottonwoods, the tranquil calm of the lake, it soothed her battered heart. She struck a red-tipped match. Held the tiny flame to the bits of dry grass and twig she’d arranged in the middle of an irregular circle of stones. It whiffed out in a puff of wind.

The second match survived the odds and sparked at the broken bits of branch. She held her breath, delighted when it caught. She needed the heat. Tonight the many miles between the rustic Qu’Appelle Valley and her native Toronto were adding up to doubts. She tossed on a couple of smaller branches. Not about setting down roots here. Or Mason. The dry wood caught and she leaned in closer to catch the flare of heat. She reached for her backpack, the motion jarring her swollen ankle. Could she convince Mason she belonged here, too?

Okay, maybe she could use a crash course in backwoods smarts, on how to survive on ants and tree bark tea, that kind of thing. Hiking without falling victim to a sprained ankle. But she was trying. Hadn’t she’d trekked in alone to their special spot? Set things up? Okay, half set things up, but still it proved she was crazy about Mason Shaw, protector of the wild things. Didn’t it?

The darker the night sky and the brighter the moon, the more she felt like maybe Mason wasn’t coming. What if he hadn’t found her note? What if he didn’t show? What then? It’d be her and the howling coyotes. No. Mason would come looking for her. He was like that, straight up honourable in an old fashioned Camelot style that stretched way beyond appealing. She could count on Mason to do the right thing even when he’d rather not.

So, do you have a favorite soup? Want to share a book recommendation? Maybe you have a favorite soup scene from a movie or book? Today’s the day to share!

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Tuesday’s Table Welcomes Author Lesley-Anne McLeod

She’s not only a friend and a wonderful writer but a mentor as well. I’m very excited to have Lesley-Anne McLeod here today to give us a peek into a Regency dining room! 

As a writer of historical romance (in my case, Regency romances) I am always learning about my favourite history era, which is that of the Regency period in England from about 1800-1830. For research, I frequently use Google Books to find actual books and magazines from the period. Cookery books are among the most interesting to read, for styles in food and food service have certainly changed in two hundred years.

One book I have particularly enjoyed is The London Art of Cookery by John Farley Formerly Principal Cook at the London Tavern. It was published in 1811.

I found it of particular interest that there is a bill of fare laid out for each month of the year, showing which game, meat, fruit and vegetables are seasonal. Also there is an illustration of each table-top with the dishes marked for a first and a second course and showing the service. Here is the Bill of Fare for October:

Many of the dishes require no explanation: custards, ham, broccoli, turkey and even oysters are not far from our everyday cooking. But some items are unusual to say the least.

Scotch Collops are a cut of veal “the size and thickness of a crown piece”, done up in a mushroom, anchovy and lemon sauce. Beef Olives are rolled rump-steaks cooked with fat bacon and served with a gravy containing port wine, cayenne and ketchup.

Tongue and Udder caused me to shudder; they were parboiled and then roasted with cloves. Almond Soup contained veal and mutton as well as almonds and cream.

What, I wondered, were the Chardoons noted on the top left corner of the second course? Well, I went to the Index of the book and discovered they are the edible ‘flower’ of a large thistle-type plant, prepared as follows:

“Cut them about six inches long, string them, and stew them till tender. Then take them out, flour them, and fry them in butter till they are brown, Serve, with melted butter. Or you may tie them up in bundles, and boil them like asparagus. Put a toast under them, and pour a little melted butter over them.”

The biggest mystery in this Bill of Fare was one of the two central dishes of the second course–Silver Web. I thought it must either be a fish or a sweet and I went to the Index with anticipation. But there was no entry for Silver Web. I went to the Internet and did a search–nothing came up for Silver Web. Feeling frustrated, I recalled a great blog I often read–The Old Foodie http://www.theoldfoodie.com I emailed Janet and asked for her help. She was most generous with her information, and here it is:

“‘Silver Web’ was a spun sugar decoration for sweet dishes and puddings. It was considered very elegant indeed.

There are recipes from the mid-eighteenth century, but here is one from 1846 – the method did not change, and this cookery book is available on Google Books, in case you want to look it up. The Gold Web sounds gorgeous too.

From: The Complete Cook, J.M. Sanderson, 1846
To make a Silver Web.

Boil clarified syrup to the crack, using the same precautions as before observed, giving it a few boils after the acid is added; dip the bottom of the pan in water and let the sugar cool a little; then take the handle of a spoon, or two forks tied together, dip it into the sugar, and form it either on the inside or outside of a mould, with very fine strings, by passing the hand quickly backwards and forwards taking care that it does not fall in drops, which would spoil the appearance of the work. With this may be represented the hair of a helmet, the water of a fountain, &c. Take a fork or an iron skewer, and hold it in your left hand as high as you can dip the spoon in the sugar, and with the right hand throw it over the skewer, when it will hang from it in very fine threads of considerable length.

To make a Gold Web.

Boil syrup to caramel height, colouring it with saffron, and form it as directed for the last. It can be folded up to form bands or rings &c. Fasten it to the other decorations with caramel. If any of the strings or threads of sugar should pass over those parts where they are not required so as to spoil the other decorations in the making of baskets or other ornaments, it may be removed with a hot knife without breaking or injuring the piece.”

The Regency table (of the upper classes) really was a thing of beauty when laid for a dinner party. Here is a recreation by food historian Ivan Day. You can view his work at Historic Food, http://www.historicfood.com/portal.htm

My next book will host a very fine Regency feast–though it might not include Tongue and Udder! My newest release The Regency Storybook contains twelve stories and twelve illustrations by my favourite artist, Shakoriel, but very little mention of food, other than tea and biscuits.

Merry Christmas to you all, and do enjoy your Christmas dining.

Lesley-Anne McLeod

Lesley-Anne McLeod has been writing for thirty years, around motherhood and a ten year career in bookselling. A life-long Anglophile, it seemed natural that she should write Regency romances, those uniquely English historical romances. She takes her inspiration from the work of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Lesley-Anne has had nine full-length Regency romance ebooks published and numerous short stories and novellas. The Regency Storybook is available in print and you can view it here: http://www.lesleyannemcleod.com/regencystorybook.html

http://www.lesleyannemcleod.com
http://www.lesleyannemcleod.blogspot.ca/
http://lesleyannemcleod.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lesleyanne.mcleod
https://twitter.com/lesleyannemc
https://www.uncialpress.com/Lesley-Anne-McLeod/

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Tuesday’s Table Welcomes Author Jana Richards

I am so excited to be hosted Jana Richards today. Not only is she an incredibly talented storyteller but she’s a friend. She’s here to share her latest release, Home Fires, and talk about her love of baking.

Easy as Pie

I’ve always liked to bake. I remember as a teenager learning to make chocolate chiffon cake. It was the size and shape of an angel food cake, and had a light, airy texture that melted in the mouth and left a nice chocolate buzz. Brownies were also a favorite of mine to bake. I guess I had a thing for chocolate. Still do.

These days I don’t bake much, due to a busy schedule and a concern for my expanding waistline. But one thing I still love to make is pie, especially for guests. Pie crust can be a tricky thing to master, and  honestly, my crusts don’t always turn out as flakey as I would like. The perfect pie crust requires exact balance. Adding a little too much or too little of any of the ingredients can result in frustration and sometimes disaster. At least it does for me.

So when I was looking for a challenging dish for my heroine to master in my novel “Welcome to Paradise”, I had her learn to make pies. Bridget is a talented chef who calls herself the “Queen of the Cocktail Party” because of her expertise with appetizers, but she has little experience with pie. The people of her small North Dakota hometown rally around to teach her. It takes a village not only to raise a child, but also to teach Bridget to bake!

Here’s the recipe for pie crust I taught to Bridget:

Fruit Pie Pastry

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening (removed from fridge about an hour before using)

8 tbsp. ice water (approximately)

2 tbsp. milk

Place oven rack on lowest level and preheat oven to 450 F. Sift flour, then measure into a bowl that will accommodate it but isn’t too big. Add salt. Add shortening to flour and use a knife to cut into dice-sized pieces. Then using a wide-bladed pastry blender, quickly combine shortening and flour until fully integrated and there’s no loose flour in bowl.

Add ice water one tablespoon at a time in different parts of the bowl. Use a table fork to quickly stir mixture. If it doesn’t start to form a ball, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and continue stirring vigorously.

When dough starts to come together in a ball, remove it from the bowl, shape it into a more uniform ball and cut in half. Generously flour a plastic pastry sheet or large wax paper. Place one of the dough halves in the centre and flatten slightly with your hand. Place a large piece of waxed paper on top and use a rolling pin on top of the waxed paper to work dough into a large, fairly thin circle that is large enough to cover the pie plate.

Remove waxed paper and gently fold circle of dough in half. Gently place it over the pie plate, unfold it and use your fingers to work it down to the bottom, against the sides and over the rim.

Repeat process with second ball of dough. Put prepared filling into pie crust. Moisten your fingers and dampen the edges of the bottom crust. Then put the folded upper crust over the filling and press the edges of the upper and lower crust together to form a seal.

Use a sharp knife to trim pastry along outside edge of pie plate, then use your fingers to crimp the edge to make a nice finish. Baste top crust, but not the crimped edge, with milk, then use a sharp knife to cut a pattern of vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake pie on lowest rack of preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 450 F and then reduce temperature to 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool somewhat before serving.

And here’s one of my favorite pie fillings. I got this recipe from my mom, and since we grow rhubarb in the garden, it’s one I make often.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

2 ½ cups rhubarb

1 cup raisins (optional)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sweet heavy cream or whipping cream

1 egg

Combine all ingredients and pour into pie crust. Makes one pie.

With practice, Bridget eventually learns to master the pie crust, and eventually learns that baking, and love, is as easy as pie.

Do you bake pie? Do you have a favorite kind of pie?

Thanks, Jana. Home Fires is a delightful read and I highly recommend it!

Anne Wakefield travels halfway around the world for love. But when she arrives in Canada from England at the end of World War Two, she discovers the handsome Canadian pilot she’d fallen in love with has married someone else. Heartbroken, she prepares to return to London, though she has nothing left there to return to. Her former fiancé’s mother makes a suggestion: marriage to her other son.

Badly wounded and scarred during the war, Erik Gustafson thinks he’s a poor substitute for his brother. Although he loves Anne almost from the first time he sees her, he cannot believe she would ever be able to love him as he is – especially as he might be after another operation on his bad leg.  Anne sees the beauty of his heart. The cold prairie winter may test her courage, but can she prove to Erik that her love for him is real?

Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at http://www.janarichards.net

Follow the Links:

Website:  http://www.janarichards.net

To read an excerpt from Home Fires:  http://www.janarichards.net/ExcerptreviewsHomeFires.html

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor

Buy Link for Home Fires:   http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_145&products_id=4902

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards

Blog:  http://janarichards.blogspot.com

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Tuesday’s Table Welcomes Author Vonnie Davis

Thank you so much for visiting today, Vonnie! What a wonderful glimpse of Paris you’ve given us. 

Karyn, thanks for hosting me today. I’ve been looking forward to our visit, so I could talk about food found in my favorite city. I often say that Paris is a feast for the senses. The beauty of the architecture, the smell of freshly baked breads, the hiss of espresso machines and popping of champagne corks, and the rich taste of French food. They do have a love affair with butter…and wine…and cheeses.

One of our favorite markets is along rue Moufftard on the Left Bank. Vendors set up their tables, artfully displaying their fresh fares early in the morning. By two o’clock in the afternoon, they are gone and the street is swept clean. French women with a net bag or a canvas shopping bag make their rounds. With small kitchens and refrigerators that often fit under the counters, storage room is next to nil.

Along with outside vendors, there are little shops barely larger than one’s bedroom here in the States. When you enter these butcher shops, bakeries, cheese stores, florists, wine shops and seafood stores, you are greeted with a lyrical, “Bonjour, Monsieurs, Madames.”

For a great bowl of French Onion Soup, or oignon soupe, we often go to Café Séverin on Boulevard Saint Michel. The restaurant is across the street from Place Saint Michel with a large statue and fountain, a meeting place for Sorbonne students. We often sit there for hours, writing and watching passersby.

 

Unlike in America, where you are expected to move on once you eat, in Paris the price of a cup of coffee entitles you to a seat for as long as you want it. Tipping is different there, too. If the bill says the tip is included, then nothing more is left on the table. In fact, the French look down on Americans for over-tipping and consider it bourgeois, or a middle class person trying to make an impression.

Since onion soup is our favorite, I’m sharing my recipe with you today:

 

SOUPE À L’OIGNON.

The onions for this soup need a long, slow cooking in butter and oil, then a long, slow simmering in stock for them to develop the deep, rich flavor.

 

1 ½ pounds or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions.

3 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. cooking oil (I use virgin olive oil)

Cook the onions slowly in the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart covered saucepan for 15 minutes, using low heat. Uncover, raise heat to moderate/medium and stir in a teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of sugar, which helps the onions to brown. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions have turned a deep, golden brown.

Sprinkle in 3 Tablespoons of flour and stir for 3 minutes. Turn off heat.

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart water and 1 quart of beef stock.

½ cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of parsley

 Blend the boiling liquid into the pan of browned onions. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to simmer.

3 Tbsp. cognac (optional, I’ve found)

Rounds of hard-toasted French bread

2 Cups grated Swiss cheese

 Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into soup cups over the rounds of toasted bread. Top each bowl/soup cups with grated cheese and place under broiler for a minute or two until cheese is brown in spots. Serve right away.

I often bake a roast the day before to get some of the broth. I also save a few slices of roast beef and cut it into tiny pieces while onions are cooking. I add the beef after adding the broth to produce a heartier soup.

I’d like to share some information about my recently released romantic suspense set in Paris. Writing it was fun since it gave me a chance to visit so many of our haunts while visiting there. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Gwen,

You won’t believe this email. I’m sitting in a French safe house, eating caviar and drinking champagne with a handsome government agent, Niko Reynard. He’s wearing nothing but silk pajama bottoms and mega doses of sex appeal. I’m in big trouble, little sister. He’s kissed me several times and given me a foot massage that nearly caused spontaneous combustion. I’m feeling strangely virginal compared to the sexual prowess this thirty-year-old man exudes.

When I came to Paris for a bit of adventure, I never imagined I’d foil a bombing attempt, karate-kick two men, and run from terrorists while wearing a new pair of stilettos. I’ve met a German musician, a gay poet from Australia, and the most delightful older French woman.

Don’t worry. I’m safe–the jury’s still out on yummy Niko, though. The more champagne I drink, the less reserved I feel. What an unforgettable fortieth birthday!

Alyson

View the Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/MonaTrailer

BUY LINKS:

THE WILD ROSE PRESS (digital) — http://bit.ly/MonaLisaDigital

THE WILD ROSE PRESS (paperback) — http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoom

AMAZON (paperback) — http://amzn.to/QQZGyD

AMAZON (eBook) — http://bit.ly/MonaLisasRoomeBook

FIND ME ONLINE AT http://www.vonniedavis.com

 I, too, have a love affair with butter, wine and cheese. But I’ll happily settle for Niko and reading Mona Lisa’s Room. And I’ll remember to take my time as well as sip, and savor as I do!

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Tuesday Table Welcomes Author Debra St. John

Welcome Debra! It’s wonderful to have you hear talking about Thanksgiving and sharing a wonderful recipe from your upcoming holiday release, An Unexpected Blessing.

While I was growing up, we always hosted Thanksgiving at our house. I think that’s why it’s my favorite holiday. There’s nothing better than waking up to the smell of succulent turkey in the oven.

One of the best parts of getting ready was setting the table. Usually we had a crowd of at least twenty, so that meant putting all of the leaves in the dining room table, plus adding additional tables at the end. The little card table at the way end was always the “kids’ table”. Eventually each of the older cousins made it to the “big people” table. Until they had kids of their own and wound up right back at the end. All told the extended table stretched out of the dining room, through the archway, and into the living room. Chairs were gathered from all over the house: dining, kitchen, folding, and sometimes even patio. Fancy white linen table cloths (freshly ironed) gave everything a uniform look.

I still remember how exciting it was to get out the cozies with Mom’s good china. Each plate was carefully removed from the stack and placed in precisely the right spot on the table. Serving dishes went in the middle, waiting to be filled with creamy mashed potatoes, sweet corn, gravy, and homemade stuffing. Next came the good silverware. Each utensil had its own stack in the padded compartment of the brown chest. Place cards were the final touch so everyone knew where to sit.

Just as exciting was waiting by the window waiting for all of the grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins to arrive. A flurry of hugs and kisses greeted each new arrival. While the relatives enjoyed appetizers, snacks, and drinks in the family room, Mom, my sister, and I (and usually a grandma or an aunt or two) put the final touches on the meal in the kitchen. Eating the ‘schnibbles’ as the turkey was carved was the best part. We’d load up the table with the enticing dishes, and then finally announce that dinner was ready. Everyone scurried to find their spots. After plates were filled and the prayer recited, we dug in. Chatter and laughter provided the backdrop as oodles of food was consumed, until one of the uncles would toss down his napkin and say, “I’m so full I can’t eat another bite.” Groans of agreement always echoed the sentiment.

And then we served dessert. And of course everyone ate it.

Those days are long gone. Not only are the cousins all grown, but their kids are all grown too. The grandmas have passed. Mom and Dad are snowbirds and spend the holiday in Florida. But the memories will live on forever in our hearts. This year my hubby and I are hosting Thanksgiving at our house for the first time. It will be a small affair. Just us, our sisters, and his parents. But I can’t wait.

So of course it wasn’t a huge stretch at all to write a story focusing on Thanksgiving. An Unexpected Blessing is coming November 21 and incorporates all the best things about the day.

Single Mom Katy Roth thinks life can’t get any worse. In the past six months she’s been let go at work, had to move back home with her parents, and found out her ex is cutting his child support payment. As Thanksgiving approaches, she finds little to be thankful for in a life that is quickly spinning out of control.

Joe Mason is the town’s bad boy. Literally. He’s just returned from a four year stint in prison. He wants nothing more than to put the past behind him and get on with his life. He’s had a secret crush on Katy since grade school, but when Katy’s parents hire him to be their handyman, she’s less than thrilled to have him around.

But soon, through her young son’s eyes, Katy discovers the good in Joe. As their feelings for one another deepen, small town gossip and prejudice threaten to ruin everything. Will Joe’s past come between them, or will they be able to get beyond it and hold onto a love neither expected?

And a recipe from the book:

Kyle’s Favorite Pumpkin Cookies

Ingredients:

1 c brown sugar

1 c cooked or canned pumpkin

½ c oil

1 t vanilla

2 c flour

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

½ t salt

½ t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg

½ t ginger

1½ – 2 c chocolate chips*

Directions:

Beat sugar, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Add to pumpkin mix and stir until smooth. Add chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

*Can substitute raisins and/or chopped nuts if preferred.

 

 

Bio: Debra St.John writes spicy romance with sexy heroes and spunky heroines for The Wild Rose Press. An Unexpected Blessing is her fifth release. Although she’s a country girl at heart, she lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband, who is her real life hero. You can find her at www.debrastjohnromance.com or blogging at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com, http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com, or www.authorsbymoonlight.com.

Thanks so much for guest blogging today, Debra. I’m more than willing to read a book that combines romance and recipes! What’s the largest gathering you’ve hosted? Feel free to share a Thanksgiving tale.

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Tuesday’s Table: Favorite Foodie Film Moment

“I would sometimes wonder what it would be like if I just turned up at my friends’ house, where I used to have dinner once a week, with the most famous person at that time, be it Madonna or whomever. It all sprang from there. How would my friends react? Who would try and be cool? How would you get through dinner? What would they say to you afterwards?”  Richard Curtis

I think one of my favorite foodie movie moments is the dinner scene from the movie Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julie Roberts. It’s also one of my favorite movies. The supporting cast of off-beat characters in this movie is an inspiration. And who won’t want to write a scene like the one in which the dinner guest with the biggest sob story wins the last brownie?

Anna Scott: Really. And, one day not long from now, my looks will go, they will discover I can’t act and I will become some sad middle-aged woman who looks a bit like someone who was famous for a while. 
Max: [long pause] Nah, nice try gorgeous, but you don’t fool anyone.
William: Pathetic effort to hog the brownie.

This is the tail end of the scene. But earlier as each person around the table does their best to win the brownie we are charmed, as is Anna Scott, by the honesty and the genuine caring and concern these people have for each other. We learn a lot about each individual character during this scene as they try and cope with the inclusion of a famous person in their midst. They are all vulnerable in some way, even the one whose life seems charmed.

It’s a scene of contrasts. Anna Scott’s lifestyle compared to theirs. No room service, little sophistication. No celebrity. They fumble about trying to act normal and make a mess of it. But all the while we know she’s there by choice as she’s drawn to William and we can sense she’s envious of their close camaraderie. They draw her in by not being able to hide how ‘normal’ they are. All this over poorly cooked guinea fowl and a plate of brownies.

Contrast is a way to showcase a variety of differences. To emphasize opposites. Red and green are contrasting colors. Anna Scott and William Thacker are contrasting characters, made more memorable because of that contrast. Think Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Bella and Edward. Eve and Roarke. Cats and dogs.

From a writing perspective, if you can take an ordinary event like eating and turn it into a scene stealer like the Notting Hill dinner party scene was for me, it’s a good thing.

What’s your favorite foodie film moment?

 

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Tuesday’s Table with Grace Hood and Autumn Cravings

I love this time of year, and always have. Not only is it back-to-school time (I loved school when I was a child), but I have a September birthday so I equate autumn with presents. Personal greed aside, the cooler days and crisp nights are refreshing after the heat of summer. I can’t wait until it’s cold enough to dig my favourite sweaters out of storage.

My food cravings change this time of year. I wonder how much of that has been programmed, you know, that whole nature vs. nurture debate. Regardless of the cause, the effect is that I search for recipes that use apples, pumpkin, cinnamon and ginger. On the savoury side, I’m cooking a lot of root vegetables and have retired my salad spinner until spring. Supper this evening was a hash consisting of potatoes, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, shallots and bacon. A side dish of steamed broccoli, the last few stalks from our garden, completed the plate of comfort food.

The recipe I want to share is one I always look forward to baking once the weather cools. It’s one of my all-time favourite cookies, second only to the half-dozen types of holiday cookies I bake every December. Can you tell I like to bake?

Iced Pumpkin Cookies (adapted from Allrecipes)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour                              1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon baking powder                             1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda                                  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves                              3 cups icing sugar

¼ teaspoon ground ginger                              5 tablespoons milk (+/- )

½ teaspoon salt                                               2 tablespoons melted butter

½ cup butter, softened                                    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups white sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger and salt. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of mixer, cream together the ½ cup butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop by tablespoonfuls on cookie sheet (I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper).
  3. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes (my oven takes 17 minutes) until bottom of cookie is golden. Cool on sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. To make icing, combine icing sugar, melted butter, vanilla and enough milk to achieve smooth, fluffy consistency. Spread on completely cooled cookies.

Notice that this recipe leaves half a can of pumpkin puree left over. Perfect for making another batch of these cookies, because you may find these tend to disappear.

Career-minded Lara doesn’t find forty all that fabulous. Her carefully plotted path to success is on target and she isn’t about to let romance derail her. Except the hot, new advertising whiz steers her libido into overdrive.

Ryan lives to shake companies up and do whatever it takes to meet his goals. But the saucy affirmation-chanting minx challenging him awakens a more carnal desire.

A battle of wills may be what she wants, but he intends to push her boundaries until her inhibitions come undone.

 

Coming Undone – The Wild Rose Press – Amazon – Barnes and Noble

Grace Hood has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered, and devoured, her grandmother’s stash of medical romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.

Grace writes full time, concentrating on sexy, steamy contemporary romance, hot paranormal romance, and spicy historical romance.

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Grace now lives in Maine with her dear husband, two teenagers, two cats, one budgie, one surviving gold fish, and six hens. When she’s not torturing her heroes and heroines, she can be found either in her kitchen whipping up something chocolate, or in her yard chasing the chickens out of the garden.

Find more about Grace Hood and her books at her website.

 

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