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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Promo, Passion and New Year's Resolutions for Writers

My first audio book, published December 26th and it's a Christmas Story!

It's that time of year when people with product to sell go insane with promo, promo, promo. I'm one of the worst. I grew up in the ski resort of Sun Valley, Idaho. There, the two weeks before Christmas are make or break for many businesses. Having grown up with this as a business model, it's difficult for me to remember what my good friend Kathy McIntosh, award winning author of Mustard's Last Stand said: "Readers will read the day after Christmas." Yet, it's true. Readers read. And no one knows what promotion works and how or even why.

It's that time of year when people look back and then forward, twisting their necks trying to do both. I'm one of the worst. Wry neck anyone? However, this year, instead of second-guessing and predicting and following old patterns, my resolutions are all about trying something new.

My resolutions (feel free to steal):

1. What, me worry? Since no one knows what works in this new publishing world and since it changes moment to moment, one of my resolutions is to not worry about it! Do what I can and let it go. Focus on the writing.

2. See above, especially focus on the writing. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the one major thing that leads to success for a writer: write better and write more.

3. See above, especially focus on the writing. Because it is also following my bliss and living in my passion.

SO my New Year's Resolution is: Relax, follow my bliss and enjoy the journey.

What's yours?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Wishes with FREE Cookbook for Christmas Day and a Recipe too!

The Mall Fairies Sweet Tooth Cookbook is FREE through Christmas Day! Enjoy!

Merry Christmas all! And what better way to celebrate than with some sweet desserts? Here's a  favorite Christmas cookie recipe from The Mall Fairies Sweet Tooth Cookbook:

GINGERBREAD SPICED COOKIES

2 cups white flour
2 generous teaspoon baking soda
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ginger
1/2 Tbsp cloves
1 Tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg or egg substitute
1/4 cup molasses
Sugar in a bowl to roll cookies

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat butter and sugar until combined and add egg and molasses and beat until mixed well. Beat in dry ingredients. Roll dough into 1" balls and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheets and press slightly. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown around edges.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Glory of Christmas Stories! With a link to a free Christmas Story!


The cover for one of my romance Christmas short stories, A RICE CRISPY CHRISTMAS as I always love reading and writing Christmas stories during the Christmas season, in any genre, ghost stories, mysteries and romance.

My addiction with Christmas stories began when I read A CHRISTMAS CAROL for the first time when I was ten. Now I re-read it and still always cry whenever I read "God bless us everyone." So in honor of A CHRISTMAS CAROL turning 170 published years old yesterday, here are quick reviews of three delightful Christmas short stories, plus here's my own free read CHRISTMAS KISSES.

THE UNWANTED CHRISTMAS GUEST by Penny Estelle

This charming romance story about a tough attorney with a true love for her Downs Syndrome daughter  is one of the best I've read for this season. In some ways it's the traditional Christmas romance story, but it differs in fantastic ways that add more levels to an already good short story. The author isn't afraid to take chances, both with her characters and her plot. I wanted this story to continue on past the end, what better recommendation?

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT by John McDonnell

A delightful offering about a homeless girl during the Depression for a traditional Christmas short story. What I loved was how well the author created his world and characters, with a deft touch, not too little, not too much. Added to my list of favorite Christmas stories.

CHRISTMAS AT THE NORTH POLE COMPOUND by Christine Verstraete

This is an adorable read for a December night. I love that this story is a mystery and takes us deep into the modern world with the elves at the North Pole, where they even have security! This would be a great tale to read to youngsters, or read as an adult, as the adults will "get" the fun "elf" jokes spread liberally throughout. 

Now dear readers, please share your favorite Christmas read!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pickled Carrots, an easy fast comfort food and healthy holiday recipe!

YUM!

PICKLED CARROTS EASY, FAST AND SIMPLE

In honor of my brand new release, Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes, here's one of my favorites from the new cookbook!
If your holidays are like mine, they wouldn't be holidays without some pickled veggies, so colorful on a holiday table. Okay, this recipe is almost too quick and too easy! It also can be used for other veggies: asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, radishes, etc. etc. And far, far less expensive than store bought pickled veggies. And lots of variations too!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup distilled white vinegar (or wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple vinegar or even coconut vinegar)
2 tablespoons white sugar (I sometimes omit this, especially when using a "sweet" vinegar such as apple vinegar)
1 tsp. salt (I use sea salt)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2/3 cup water
8 large carrots, diced

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan mix all ingredients except for carrots. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and pour over carrots in glass containers (careful, it's hot!) until covered. Seal containers, let cool slightly, refrigerate and marinate carrots for at least 12 hours.

With other vegetables not as "tough" as carrots you might want to let the mixture cool (a touch) before pouring over them—asparagus for example may overcook. However, I like my pickled vegetables "al dente" and you may want to blanch your carrots, green beans, and even asparagus if you prefer a softer pickled veggie.

VARIATIONS:

Use different herbs and spices for different pickled tastes:
Pictured: I used wine vinegar and added a tablespoon each of sage, thyme and dill for a spicy holiday pickle taste. (Note: these herbs create a strong taste, which I love, but may not be everyone's favorite.)
Add chili peppers for hot pickles.
Mix different veggies together, for example cauliflower florets, carrots and red radishes create a colorful plate of pickled veggies for a holiday table or anytime!

And dear readers, do you have a special food for a holiday tradition that you'd like to share?



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brine Your Turkey for Thanksgiving!

In honor of the release of my cookbook Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes and Thanksgiving, here's how to brine your turkey!

INGREDIENTS:

12 cups water, divided
1 cup sea salt (do not use regular salt as bird will be too salty)
1-2 cups sugar (I use brown sugar and sometimes omit)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 tablespoon pepper
4 cups ice

DIRECTIONS:

Bring 4 cups of water to a simmering boil. Add salt and sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in 8 cups cold water, apple cider vinegar, sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper, and ice. The brine is ready.

Remove giblets and neck from the cavity. Rinse the outside and inside of a thawed turkey. Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry. Completely submerge the turkey in whatever you can find that is food safe. Allow the turkey to marinate for 8-12 hours for a small turkey (8-10 lbs) and up to 20 hours for a really big bird. Do not go past 20 hours because bird may become too salty. Rinse turkey and pat dry before adding additional seasoning, butter, or oil in preparation for roasting.

Note: brined birds can cook faster than a turkey that has not been brined, as the salt breaks down the muscle tissues, so check the bird more often so it doesn't become overcooked.

AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Recipe to Honor Dad on Veteran's Day

VETERAN'S DAY THANKS TO ALL VETERANS!

In honor of my dad and all the other veteran's, here's one of his absolute favorite recipes. This is one of the recipes in my upcoming Starke Deadly Delicious Recipes. Enjoy, and please thank our veterans today.

SALMON PATTIES

These are so tasty! And so easy and cheap! And healthy too!

Ingredients:
1 can canned salmon (wild caught is best)
1 cup quick cook oatmeal
4 eggs or egg substitute, if eggs whisk until smooth
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon sage (my favorite, it makes these delicious)
Other spices if you want (optional) , a teaspoon of chili powder, teaspoon of cumin, teaspoon of celery seed (good!), 1 teaspoon lime juice, and teaspoon of black pepper

Drain can of salmon (I like to drain the juice into a bowl and feed to my pets, they love it!) Place salmon in large mixing bowl. Now, I prefer to remove the skin from the salmon (and feed to the animals) because the black skin looks nasty to me in the finished product. But the skin is edible and full of good fat, so if you don’t mind the look, keep the skin. Mush the salmon with a fork until fairly fine and then add oatmeal and eggs and spices. Mix well. Let set so the oatmeal softens, about 5 minutes. Heat a skillet on the stove to medium heat; pour a small amount of oil in the bottom. Make patties of salmon mixture and place (carefully-hot oil!) in pan. Place cover on skillet and let cook a good 3-5 minutes until you see patties are cooked on bottom, then flip and cook on top and done! (Note: this mixture makes a lot of patties, so I do two skillets at once.)

Easy Cocktail Sauce: Into a small bowl pour about a half cup of ketchup. Add a teaspoon or to taste of ground horseradish.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheap easy delicious Sunday dinner recipe!

Sunday Dinner Slumgullion, YUM!

My of-Scots-descent mom always made slumgullion for Sunday Dinner because it was always different and always delicious. What is slumgullion, you ask? Simple: mixed up leftovers. Not so simple, because if you mix up the wrong leftovers you get ... cooked garbage. Aunt Maddie does this when she makes this dish in my Starke Dead mystery series. But if you follow a few simple rules, slumgullion will become a Sunday dinner staple in your home too!

Rules:

Think of like with like and ingredients you'd use together in dishes. In the example pictured above, I took leftover chili (steak, chili sauce, tomatoes), leftover Mexican casserole (hamburger, corn, chilis and carrots) and leftover pasta and combined. Yum!

If you have a lot of one leftover and a little of another, and not quite enough to make a meal consider another item that would combine well with your ingredients. I might add beans or some spaghetti squash to the recipe above. Or add a side dish too, a salad perhaps.

Avoid mixing too strong of flavors, sweets and sours, for example. If Aunt Maddie was making the recipe above, she'd add apple pie! Okay, an extreme example, but Aunt Maddie is pretty extreme herself. Also avoid too many different added spices. Both these mistakes will make the food taste strange and murky.

If you have "simple" leftovers, such as cooked vegetables and chicken, consider which spices to use and try different ones for a "refreshed" dish. (I might use coriander, thyme and pepper for the vegetables and chicken, for example.)

Avoid mixing tomatoes,vinegar or lemon juice with peas, green beans and/or broccoli as the green vegetables will turn brown and bitter.

That's it! Otherwise, let your creativity reign!

Do any of my readers have suggestions or stories, good or bad, of slumgullion recipes?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Easy Cheap Delicious Mustard Salad Dressing Recipe

Takes five minutes to make and oh, so good!

In honor of my having sold the first in my Starke Dead mystery series, Starke Naked Dead, to my publisher Muse It Up, here's a healthy and fast dressing recipe that's chockablock full of cancer fighting antioxidants! Why? Because I need fast, healthy food so I can work on the next in the series, Starke Raving Dead!

MUSTARD SALAD DRESSING

Basic recipe:

Ingredients:

1/3 cup vinegar (apple cider, coconut vinegar or rice vinegar work well)
1/3 cup oil (olive oil works best, but grape seed, canola oil or walnut oil also work)
1/3 cup mustard (Dijon works best, but any mustard will do)
1/3 cup water

Mix all the ingredients together in a jar and you're done! Easiest way to mix is to shake the jar.

Variations:

Add complementary spices:
1 teaspoon of curry spice makes a tasty curry mustard dressing
Coriander, cumin and/or pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons of nutritious (brewer's) yeast will make this dressing creamier
Substitute mayo for the oil
Substitute dill pickle juice for the vinegar
Add a splash of lemon or lime
For a thicker "creamy" dressing, process 1/3 cup of cooked or canned beans of your choice in a food processor until smooth and then add the ingredients in the basic recipe.

This keeps well up to two weeks in the fridge, although in my house it never stays that long!

Try your own variations as this is a forgiving recipe. Share your variations!