Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Don't Become a New Year's Eve You Tube Video

Why am I dishing out this advice? Because last year, I was afraid of this happening to me. No, I was not running out with a lampshade on my head or displaying any other ridiculous behavior.
Let me explan what happened. Last New Year's Eve, a bunch of us took advantage of a local hotel's New Year's Eve package. All of us have kids, so it was a nice getaway to have food, dancing, a comfy room and New Years Day breakfast.
We all got our rooms close together. One room was designated as the "food room". Everyone brought finger foods and a table was set up in that room. Down the hall from us was the sports bar/restaurant where there was music and dancing.
Now, this girl loves to dance. I had not been dancing since my friend's wedding reception, which was about three years before. Needless to say, I got my groove on. No big deal in that everyone else was doing the same. Except, I was eight months pregnant.
I had been to the doctor that day, and I was not dialted or anything, so dancing was totally fine. Pretty soon I realized that I must have looked pretty hilarious out there, but I continued to dance, with lots of water breaks, just to be safe.
As the evening went on, I noticed lots of folks snapping pics and shooting video on their camera phones. None of them seemed to be aimed at me, but I became a bit paranoid about getting caught in the background of a vidoe. I could just see someone posting a video on You Tube of a big pregnant lady in a red maternity jacket getting down on the dance floor.
As midnight approached, champagne was poured at each table. Seeing my condition, the manager sent me a bottle of sparkling grape juice. Soon after my grape juice toast and a midnight kiss with my husband, I decided that it was time to sleep. As I walked back to our room with my half-empty bottle of sparkling grape juice, which looked just like a bottle of champagne, the You Tube fears peaked. I could just see a "Pregnant Lush" video becoming the new You Tube scandal! So Fatal Foodies if a video pops up of a pregnant woman dancing and carrying a half-empty bottle through a sports bar, remember I had medical clearance and it was grape juice!

Here is a simple recipe for one of the finger foods I took to our New Years Eve gathering:

Chocolate Crescents
canned crescent rolls
chocolate chips
seperate and unroll each crescent roll into a triange
sprinkle about 10 chocolate chips in the middle of each triangle, roll up into crescent shape
bake according to package directions
Can be served as whole crescents or cut into pieces.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading Barbara Pym

A friend gave Charlie and me a stack of Barbara Pym novels and every so often we'll read one. They need to be read rather carefully, because nothing much happens on the surface, but a great deal happens between the lines. When I try to write between the lines, my editors send the manuscript back and ask me to clarify. It takes a deft touch to do it properly.

Pym's books--the ones I've read, anyway--use food and drink to good effect. What someone serves and on what occasion, how one behaves at tea or at table all characterize one's personality, upbringing, status, class and propriety. It's enough to make you pause before inviting anyone over. It's definitely a change from Great-Grandma Goodman, who would put supper on the table and say, "Come and get it, 'fore I slop it to the hogs."


Saturday, December 26, 2009


I hope everyone had as nice a Christmas Day as Don and I did.  We got lots of presents and  had a delicious brunch with pleasant company at my friend Nan's house.  She made a breakfast casserole with eggs, sweet corn, and chile peppers, a cranberry, orange, and apple relish/salad, and a coffee cake to die for.  I must get that recipe.  In fact, I do have the recipe for the cranberry salad.  I'll post it on this site someday.  You'll thank me for it.

If you're finding yourself on this Boxing Day wishing that you hadn't indulged in so much Christmas dinner, let me suggest that you do yourself a favor and do something that's both seasonal and medicinal.  Make yourself some fresh ginger tea.

Ginger is soothing, warming (especially good for those of you in the Midwest who are up to your earlobes in snow and ice), and excellent for nausea  and an upset tummy.  For one quick cup, slice an inch-long piece of fresh ginger off the knob, peel it, then sliver it into little pieces and bring to a boil in eight ounces of water.  (You certainly can grate it, if that's easier for you.  Just grate about one teaspoon directly off the knob into the pan of water.)  After the ginger water comes to a boil, cover and remove from heat, then let it steep for ten minutes or so, or until it's nice and golden and smells spicy.  Strain, pour into a mug, and enjoy.  I like mine straight, but most normal people sweeten theirs.  Don likes a teaspoon of honey.  I have been known to steep the ginger along with about an inch of cinnamon stick, as well.

And since we're talking about ginger, friends, and recipes, my friend Julie Hedlund gave me a really wonderful and easy recipe for ginger cookies that I would really be remiss not to share with you this holiday season.  And if you're thinking that you've had enough cookies this Christmas, just remember that ginger is medicinal.

Julie's Ginger Cookies

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup shortening

1 egg

5 tablespoons molasses (1/4 cup plus 1 T.)

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups flour


Cream sugar and shortening together.  Add the remaining ingredients, and mix well.  Chill dough for awhile - makes it easier to roll into balls.  Once rolled into a ball, coat with sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, and then remove to cooling rack.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Movies

Tomorrow will mark the first day of my husband's Christmas vacation. I hope to celebrate with a good Christmas movie. My favorite is the classic National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. We have already watched it twice since Thanksgiving. Last night we watched Home Alone. Tonight, I think it may be Four Christmases.

A funny scene in Four Christmases shows a lady preparing a less-than-healthy version of a salad that contains lots of mayo and spam. I had to laugh because one of my favorite salads is almost as bad for your, but tastes so good. This salad is very portable, and goes well with ham and turkey. The caloric and fat content can be cut with Splenda, fat-free mayo, fat-free cheese and turkey bacon

Layered Pea Salad

1 bag of frozen salad peas (thawed)

1 red and 1 green bell pepper (diced)

3 or 4 chopped green onions (white parts only)

4 0r 5 stalked of celery (chopped)

8 pieces of crumbled bacon

2 cups of mayo

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

In a large glass bowl, layer peas, peppers onions celery and bacon.

For dressing, combine mayo, sugar and vinegar.

Spread dressing over vegetables and bacon.

Top with cheese.

While you chop veggies and fry bacon, might as well tune into a Christmas flick!

Another Contest for Christmas

Our #1 daughter bought me this and gave it to me the other day. She is both spiky and shiny (her tail glitters--I'm talking about the owl, now, not my daughter), which makes her just perfect for me.

Her name is Hootie because, DUH, she’s an owl. In honor of the daughter who gave her to me, her middle name is Ann.

Here is the contest: Here is a page with anthologies containing my work. I have one copy left of THE GIFT OF MURDER and several copies of SWORD AND SORCERESS XXIII, each of which has one of my stories in it. I can also get copies of any of the Southern Indiana Writers anthologies that are still in print, each of which has at least one of my stories in it.

You have until the end of 2009 to guess my new friend’s last name. Everyone who guesses correctly–or comes reasonably close–will have his/her/its name entered in the contest. On January 1, 2010, I’ll have Charlie draw five names, and the first one he draws will have first pick of the books available and so on down the line. Five prizes will be awarded, assuming five people care enough to enter.

You can enter by sending me an email, replying to this post here or the one on my website. You can have more than one guess. You can guess something someone else has already guessed. Have fun!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies Equal Childhood Memories

So I discovered Saturday when my sister, boyfriend and I went to a party at my Cousin Jon's house, his annual Christmas bash. This is the first year either Lisa (sister) or I have been able to attend as he lives in Sacramento, along with the bulk of our relatives on Mom's side of the family. This year it happened to work out that Lisa was returning from China with a layover in San Francisco, which she turned into a two day stay so we could go to the party and see aunts, uncles and assorted cousins we haven't seen in years. Something about our dad's brush with death last Sunday and his continuing illness in ICU made us both want to spend time with family. I think it's pretty natural a reaction when mortality rears its ugly head and threatens someone near and dear to a person.


After a battle with the mean streets of Carmichael versus Google Maps' totally screwed up directions, we made it to Jon's house and reacquainted ourselves with family. Met kids of cousins last seen when we were all, oh, twenty years younger?

Then our cousins from Auburn arrived, bearing a platter of assorted homemade Christmas cookies. The sight, smell and taste immediately sent me into a happily nostalgic state: crescent cookies dusted with powdered sugar; chocolate snowflakes, gingersnaps, and chocolate fudge. The same cookies baked in each of our houses back when we were all kids, our grandparents still alive, and the future still a wide open vista of possibilities. No cell phones, no computers, lots of games of kick the can, hide'n'seek, and frog hunting out back of our Uncle Bob and Aunt Betsy's house with Cousin Grady, who used to eat dog food. Good times.

I'm not saying I regret the advent of computers or other useful technology. But I'm very glad I grew up in an era where a kid was still very much a kid.

Heh. Signal 'when I was a kid, we walked to school in the snow!' about now... :-)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tamale Time Again

Here in the Great American Southwest, it just ain’t Christmas until the citrus trees decorate themselves with bright, ripe oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and kumquats.  Neither is it Christmas without tamales.

When I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma, the only tamales we ever ate came out of a can.  I had to grow up and move to Texas, then Arizona, before I learned the joy of real, like-God-intended, tamales.

Tamales are a labor-intensive food, so they’ve become a traditional holiday treat.  Just about every Spanish speaking Western Hemisphere country has its regional varieties of tamales.  Don’t think tamales are a Spanish dish, though -  they’re much older than that.   On their first trip to Mexico, the Conquistadors were treated to tamales by the Aztecs.  (Had the Aztecs known how it was going to all turn out, they might have considered spiking the tamales with something lethal, but that’s another story.)

Usually made with pulled pork filling wrapped in masa (a cornmeal dough made with nothing much more than ground corn, water, and lime - the mineral, not the citrus fruit)  Masa is the same dough used to make corn tortillas, but rather than cooked on a griddle, like a tortilla, a tamale is wrapped in corn husks, or banana leaves in some regions, and steamed. It’s something like a long, luscious, spicy, steamed cornmeal dumpling.

In the Mexican state of Sinaloa, they make several varieties, including one stuffed with pineapple.  Until I came to AZ, I had never eaten a green corn tamale, which is meatless, stuffed with cheese, sweet corn kernels, and mild green chiles.  Every holiday season, beginning around Thanksgiving, the stores and restaurants begin selling tamales of every imaginable variety.  Pumpkin-stuffed is quite popular, both a sweet variety and savory.  It’s also easy to find chicken, beef, and sausage as well as the more traditional pork filling.  If you hunt around a little, you can find all kinds of odd stuffings - chocolate, pineapple and raisin, both often with chiles in the recipe.  One year I saw a raspberry and almond variety.

Whatever your traditional Holiday foods are, I hope you eat a lot of them and enjoy them as much as I enjoy my Christmas tamales.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Voracious Ravenousitis

If you, too, grew up watching reruns of Bewitched, then you're familiar with the fictitious ailment voracious ravenousitis. It caused Samantha to eat everything she saw. The other night I found myself wondering, "What is it about the holidays that makes me think voracious ravenousitis isn't so fictional after all?" Of course, I was thinking this as I stood in the kitchen looking around for something to eat.

Is it the stress? I, for one, am a stress eater. And this time of year, I want to get everyone in my family the perfect gift. I want everyone to be happy and have his or her expectations met. And, for some reason, I feel that meeting those expectations is my responsibility. If someone doesn't have a good Christmas, it's somehow my fault! So, if you don't have yourself a merry little Christmas, please don't tell me.

Is it the socializing? The parties, the breakfasts, the brunches and the lunches...and that's just at my children's school! This morning, I helped serve at the 8th graders' brunch. Afterward, the volunteers were invited to eat also. Naturally, I had to sample the mini cinnamon rolls and the maple-iced doughnuts. My daughter came up and exclaimed, "Mom, you have to try this awesome fudge!" So, I tried the awesome fudge...and it was.

Is it the food itself? There are special foods that aren't around anytime else...or, if they are, they don't seem as good. Last night, I bought some macadamia nut butter toffee popcorn mix at Target. Sure, you can get Crunch-N-Munch anytime but not with macadamia nuts!

Whatever the cause, I have voracious ravenousitis. And, I only expect it to get worse in the coming week. So...calling Dr. Bombay! Emergency! Come right away!

Dr. Bombay?


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Easiest Candy EVER!

Tomorrow night is my annual Girls' Night Out Christmas Open House. I make sweets and taco soup. My friends bring finger foods.
One of my sweet treats is the simplest thing, and tastes so good. If you like sweet and salty, you must try it! This is a variation of the Pretzel Kisses that Gayle recently posted. So once again, I am taking a cue from our Fatal Foodies founder.

Pretzel Candy

Place small pretzel twists on baking sheet.

Put a Rolo candy atop each pretzel.

Bake @ 250 degrees for 5 minutes.

While chocolates are hot, press a pecan half on top of each one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Ba-ack

My sprained ankle is just about well, and my mother is recovering from her appendectomy. I think it was just a ploy to squeeze as many get-well gingersnaps as possible from her granddaughters.

Gingersnaps are cookies I'd just as soon do without. I don't know why. I like ginger in Chinese dishes, I love gingerale and I like bread-gingerbread soft in a loaf spread with hard sauce. If I eat a gingersnap, I'm always like, "Ooooh! This is TASTY!" Maybe it's a Hansel and Gretel thing. Maybe, somewhere in my subconscious, I'm like, "Gingerbread is a construction material."

Which reminds me of when my #4 daughter was wee. She was going through a phase of telling me I was mean whenever I denied her her way in anything. Then we watched a live-action Hansel and Gretel, where the kids were flattered and coaxed by the kindly old lady in the gingerbread house and then, when they wouldn't come in, she turned into a furniture-chewing evil screaming hag. Daughter turned to me with big eyes and said, "Now THAT'S a mean mommie!"

Christmas would be the perfect time for a poisoning, to bring myself back on topic. People feel obliged to eat all manner of things they don't usually eat, with tastes they may think odd, just because somebody hands them a plate and beams, "This is a tradition in my family. I'm very proud of them. It's my grand-mother's recipe."

Writing--a little bit grand, a little bit ghastly.

Enjoy the upcoming Solstice, and stay warm and well.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Moody Monday

I'm waiting to hear word on my dad's health - he's in ICU and I may be flying down to San Diego at any time. Food is not something on my mind and I'm trying to think thoughts as far away from fatal as I can. So here's my question: what is your all time favorite Christmas recipe, be it cookie or main dish? Mine is old fashioned butter cookies made with a cookie press in various shapes, decorated with chocolate chips, maraschino cherries, nuts, sprinkles, or whatever else our imaginations and cupboards could come up with.

What about you?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Cookies

This has been a particularly cookie-filled Christmas season for me.  Last weekend, I attended my first cookie exchange.  To tell you the truth, I’ve never even heard of a cookie exchange before I was invited to one.  Am I a poor excuse for a foodie and a woman?  Apparently everyone else in the U.S. of A. has been doing cookie exchanges during the holiday season for decades.

If by some slender chance any of you Dear Readers out there are as sheltered and ill-informed as I, here’s how it works:  Each invitee brings 2 dozen homemade cookies to the exchange.  A party ensues, during which time everyone scarfs down as many cookies as she can hold.  When all revelers are stuffed to the gills and can barely waddle, each party-goer picks through the left over cookies and takes home a variety to share with the family.  

What a good idea!

While we were in the midst of exchanging cookies, one of my friends told me that her church holds an annual “Cookie Walk” to raise money.  This is a variation of the cookie exchange that goes thus : participating members each bring agreed-upon number of cookies, all of which are arranged across a long table.  Since we’re talking about a religious congregation here, or some other large group, this results in a humongous collection of cookies of every imaginable variety.  Then, attendees can buy an empty box, say, $5 for a small box, $10 for a large one, and go down the table and fill’er up.  You can take as many cookies as you can stuff in the box.  The suggestion was made that if you busted the cookies up, you could fill more square footage in the box.  If you’re really want value for your money, you could end up going home with a box of all different varieties of cookie dust.

BTW, Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends, and Happy Cookies to all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season

Since Lisa has put me into a singing mood today, and since I'm overwhelmed with all the "stuff" I have to do today:

'Tis the season
to get take-out
run, run, run, run, run...yourself to death.

Found a site that
helps you with that.
Here it is so click and get some help.

It has menus
and some coupons.
It is called

I'll be looking
in a minute
for something quick...and hopefully feed my crew.

Happy Friday to all, and to all a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ice Ice Baby

Gayle, I have so taken off with your idea from Black Friday. Your parody of Billy Idol has inspired me to rework a pop song. So, here it goes. This is to the tune of Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice.

Allright stop.
Pick up a spoon and listen.
Rita's brings me a new food addiction.
Ice ice baby, Italain ice ice baby.

The thing that has caused me to break into song is Rita's Italian Ice. I brought a quart home on Saturday and have been digging into the bucket of frozen mango bliss ever since. If you have a Rita's near you (you don't if you live west of Ohio) I have a wonderful suggestion for a hostess gift or a Christmas treat for guests. Pick up a container of Rita's strawberry and a container of their green apple. You have Christmas colors and something a bit different from all of the cookies and fudge.
Toodles till next week, or in the words of Vanilla Ice:
Yo man let's get out of here
Word to your mother

No Can Post

Thursday: Fell down one tiny step and sprained my foot in same place it ALWAYS sprains.

Saturday: Mom got appendicitis.

Saturday/Sunday am: Mom had appendectomy.

Ever since: Tooling around hospital in boot and wheelchair, staying with Mom all day.

She should be coming home today or tomorrow, and I'll be at her house until she's back up to speed. I'm managing to take it relatively easy while looking after her. Plotted a story yesterday while she slept.

She's on a liquid diet right now, and the dinner tray I ordered for myself turned out to be chicken-fried steak, her favorite dish in all the world. If that doesn't qualify for a 'FATAL FOODIE' post, I don't know what does.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Hot Toddy TIme

Okay, I admit it, I've been pathetic lately. Nothing like a good old-fashioned head cold to make one not only miserable, but feel like a five year old who wants nothing more than to lie in bed and be served chicken soup and Saltines while watching cartoons (or in my case, zombie movies). Unfortunately I had to work through most of the cold and on the days I stayed home from work, I still brought my computer and month-end reports home with me, so while I DID sleep in a few extra hours those days, I couldn't stay in bed. I did, however, treat myself to one of my favorite winter time treats, which is also VERY good for colds. Hot apple cider/whiskey toddies.

Easiest recipe in the world too:

Take a saucepan and dump in apple cider, cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice (I just plop in several slices of lemon), a bit of honey or agave syrup to taste, and a shot or five of whiskey. I never measure any of this, preferring to taste test as I stir the mixture over the stove. When doing month end reports or any other work related activity, I recommend keeping the whiskey at a minimum! Otherwise, while it may not have any medicinal value (and this point can be debated quite heatedly), it sure eases the pain!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December is the Cruelest Month

Christmas is coming, and Donis is getting fat.  And I can’t even say I’ve written a book about cakes and bakeries.  I’m still dealing with the extra “Fatten up Don” pounds that I put on while my husband was sick and I was trying to get him up to something like a normal weight. 

The 25 pounds he gained look good on him.  The howsoever many I gained - not so much.  Since the crisis abated this fall, I’ve been really really good with the diet. That is, until November 15, when we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary by going out to eat like a couple of truckers.  Then, following two weeks of soup and Lean Cuisine, Thanksgiving.

More famine following the feast, but this Sunday I’m attending a cookie exchange and I made the mistake of baking the cookies ahead of time.

I try hard, but I’m weak.  And to make it even harder, every day of the world I go to either my local Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s,  Treats and samples are everywhere, and I feel like I’m a shark and someone just threw a bucketful of chum into the water.

Yesterday, Trader’s was sampling grilled cheese sandwiches made of cinnamon raisin bread, blue cheese, and apples.  Tonight at Whole Foods, I was faced with slices of clementines and oranges, and bite-sized pieces of carrot muffin, blueberry danish, chocolate chip cookie, and hummus on baguette.  Did I resist?  What do you think?

December is my nemesis.  Not only do all kinds of parties and open houses lead up to Christmas, my birthday is four days after the holiday, and I have no intention of forgoing my birthday cake. 

Perhaps my only hope this month is to skip meals altogether and simply make a trip to the store a couple of times a day.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Some happy news for a change

This article doesn't really fit our format . . . though in a way, I suppose it is in large part about food. I felt compelled to share it because in this season of miracles and blessings, this is such a powerful story of hope.

Did you see this article on MSN: Two homesless brothers living in a cave in Budapest, Hungary have inherited a share of $6.6 billion dollars. That's billions.

You might think their main concerns would be a big house, fancy clothes and tons of food; but those are not foremost in the brothers' minds.

“If this all works out it will certainly make up for the life we have had until now — all we really had was each other — no women would look at us living in a cave,” said Geza Peladi. “But with money, maybe we can find a partner and finally have a normal life.”

I think this statement is precious; but I have to admit, it did recall images of SNL's Festrunk brothers played by Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin. Let's just hope if the brothers come to America to find "foxes," they don't turn in to "two wild and crazy guys!" :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cutie Pies Bakery Book Tour

Will four bakeries in two weeks equal five extra pounds? I am about to find out.

This coming Friday will mark the offical debut of my third book in the Cutie Pies Chronicles and the kick-off of The Cutie Pies Bakery Book Tour. Since my books' main character owns a bakery called Cutie Pies, my publisher and I felt that a bakery book tour would be perfect.

First stop will be a little bakery in the historic town of Jonesborough, Tennessee. Jonesborough is a must-see for anyone visiting east Tennessee. It is Tennessee's oldest town, complete with lovely old buildings, brick sidewalks and a National Storytelling Center.

The bakery is called Another Touch. I have long been addicted to their cupcakes that are covered in a thick layer of buttercream frosting.

The second stop will be at a little spot called Cranberries in Johnson City, Tennessee. They have all sorts of sandwiches, salads and quiches. There is also a beautiful case of bakery items. My weakness at Cranberries is their quiche with a side of salad.

Better add some intensity to my workouts! I think I'll be taking in some major calories on this book tour.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Natural For This Blog

I just finished reading the anthology MANY BLOODY RETURNS, which couples vampires with birthdays. One's thoughts inevitably go to Sugar, our red-laced mascot, about to take a butcher knife to Bubba'

Speaking of butcher knives, there's a Jim Butcher story in this anthology--Jim Butcher being the author. The innocuously named Harry Dresden is the main character. The lead story is by Charlaine Harris, featuring Sooky Stackhouse of tv's True Blood fame.

But, with all due respect to Butcher and Harris and all the other talented writers in this anthology, for my money, the best of the bunch is Bill Crider's "I Was A Teenage Vampire", written in the style of Holden Caulfield. Dear God, it's funny. Crider is a talented writer altogether, and has a story in THE GIFT OF MURDER, this year's Wolfmont Press mystery anthology to benefit the Toys for Tots. He also likes cats.

Naturally, I recommend THE GIFT OF MURDER as a holiday gift, since it benefits Toys for Tots (none of the authors nor the publisher has or will receive any profit from the sales--it all goes to the kids), but I also recommend MANY BLOODY RETURNS, if only for Bill Crider's roll-on-the-floor story.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Butternut Squash and Eggnog to the Rescue

I hope you all had as lovely and delicious a Thanksgiving as Don and I did.  We enjoyed our usual vegetarian TG a deux. The menu was slightly different this year because of Don’s new anti-oxalate diet, and yet I discovered that almost all of the traditional Thanksgiving fare was doable.

We made a Quorn ‘turkey’ roast, which if you’ve ever attempted to replace actual turkey with a meat substitute, Quorn roast is by far the closest reproduction.  Don did the dressing, cornbread, of course.  This was the biggest cheat dish of all, since he’s supposed to avoid celery.  What would dressing be without celery, though?  So he saved up his oxalate ‘points’ just for the occasion.  

I made my yummy, cream-cheese sauced, sharp cheddar and buttery bread crumb covered, absolutely not low-cal  broccoli-onion casserole, the recipe for which I posted last week.  I ate as much of it as I wanted, saying to myself all the while, it’s Thanksgiving, after all.  Same with the butter-slathered dinner rolls.

The biggest problem of all was pie.  Neither pumpkin nor sweet potatoes are on Don’s diet, and he had already squandered all his dietary good will on the dressing.  Now, I could have made some other kind of pie than ‘pumpkin’, and it would have been lovely, but I rose to the challenge and created a pie of my own recipe that was as delicious as any pumpkin or sweet potato pie ever made.  I used butternut squash.

I substituted pureed butternut squash in a traditional pumpkin pie recipe, but the secret to extra deliciousness was that I also substituted eggnog for the evaporated milk.  Since store-bought eggnog is already sweetened, I halved the sugar.  My recipe for pumpkin pie calls for 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar.  I used only the brown sugar.

So next time you’re looking for a different and interesting holiday pie, I recommend taking your favorite pumpkin pie recipe and altering it to make Donis’s Butternut Squash-Eggnog Pie.  

Before the holiday season is over, and prepared eggnog is no longer available, I intend to try an eggnog custard pie.  I’ll let you know.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

[Cue the music to Billy Idol's White Wedding]

Hey, little sister, what do you want?
Hey, little sister, where's your bargain at?
Hey, little sister, shop now!
C'mon, it's a nice day for a Black Friday!

Okay, so I'm feeling punchy this morning. Chalk it up to too much food yesterday. Plus, I've already gone through my first Diet Coke of the morning and done most of my Black Friday shopping.

Did I get up and trudge out in the cold at 4 a.m. to stand in line at area retailers? No way! I'm too lazy for that. I got up at 8 a.m. to sit in front of my computer in my pjs.

I've been shopping at Sephora and Bath & Body Works. I started to shop online at Books-A-Million, but I'm thinking I might actually go by there later today when I think the crowds might've waned. I've already printed off a coupon for $5 off $25 for an in-store purchase.

If, like me, you'd rather shop Black Friday deals at home in your pjs, check out the deals at

Plus, don't forget my Twitter contest ends today! Be sure and get one more entry in. I'll be announcing the winner tomorrow morning. C'mon, it's a nice day to . . . win a gift!

As Tigger would say, TTFN (ta-ta for now). I'm off to have another Diet Coke and try to figure out why spending Thanksgiving at my parents' house has driven me back to the '80's.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Put Your Signature on Thanksgiving

My grandmother's pasta salad, Uncle Danny's deep fried turkey, mom's broccoli casserole; they are all signature dishes. They are so intertwined with the ones I love that I cannot thinks of these foods without thinking of the ones who make them.
My mother-in-law makes great potato salad, a family friend named Hazel bakes the best rolls. One of my husband's grandmothers fixes banana pudding, the other stirs up a delicious broccoli salad. All of these foods symbolize family gatherings, comfort and love.
I began my married life in search of my signature holiday dish, the dish that I will be expected to bring each year. For the past two years, I have taken a layered salad to my mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving. It has been for at least three years that I have brought cranberry salad to my mom's house. Seems I have proudly found my signature dishes.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaNo Marches On

I'm up to 46,000+ words, now, still ahead of schedule for the challenge but behind on my personal goal. I may very well catch up, though. I'm getting a good view of the last part of the book, with some scenes I need to put in that'll go fairly quickly. I hope.

LeJune and Packy aren't getting along any better. Every so often, I think things are going to get all warm and fuzzy and familial between them, but the family feeling seems to be staying pretty duty-versus-heartfelt. For instance:

Packy was in the kitchen, reading diaries, and Mama was winding up a conversation with one of her friends.

"I better let you go, then," Mama said. Then she said, "Uh-huh. No, really?" and they were yakking again. It was worse than having a teenager.

Packy had a glass on the table in front of him, empty except for the leavings of one of those effervescent stomach powder drinks.

"After all the bean soup you ate for supper," I said, "I'd think you were fizzy enough as it is."

"Gave me indigestion," he said.

"More likely, it was that hindquarter of beef you had for lunch. A man your age ought not to eat that much in one sitting, especially if you have a delicate stomach."

I could see he wanted to contradict me, but either he had indigestion or he didn't.

I'm having a blast with these characters. None of them is anybody I know, but they all have bits of different people I know included in them. You who write, you know how that is. Even if you start out intending to parody somebody or, worse yet, pay a grand tribute to somebody, unless the character becomes somebody else, that character is cardboard. Or, as I prefer to say, a sock puppet.

Haven't you read books where at least one of the characters is obviously standing in for somebody real? Where a character is just so awful or so perfect the book ought to have a label on it that says Reality Not Included? Or where all the action stops so a character can flap his or her literary lips while the puppeteer makes a speech?

Anyway, I'm in the middle of a fight scene, in which each character participates in his or her own particular way, and it's getting a little loopy. Gotta go!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quick and Easy Recipes for Thanksgiving

Last week I promised a couple of recipes for dishes you could take to that Thanksgiving pot luck.  These are different, delicious, and most importantly, easy.  Keep your eye on this blog between now and Thursday, Dear Reader.  You might be able to get enough recipes to create an entire TG dinner.  Eat Hearty, and Happy Thanksgiving.

This is the ultimate veggie dish.  You can certainly use another vegetable besides Broccoli.  Any veg tastes great with a cream cheese sauce.

Broccoli-Onion Deluxe  (also make with Brussels sprouts instead of broccoli)

Serves 6

2 10-oz packages frozen cut broccoli

2 cups frozen small white onions or 3 medium onions, quartered

¼ cup butter

2 tbsp flour

¼ tsp salt

1 cup milk

1 3-oz package cream cheese

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup soft bread crumbs

Cook broccoli according to package directions and drain.  Cook the frozen or fresh onions in boiling salted water until tender and drain.  In saucepan melt half the butter.  Blend in flour, salt, and a dash of pepper.  Add milk.  Cook stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat and blend in cream cheese until smooth.  

Place veggies in 1 ½ quart casserole.  Pour the sauce over the top and mix lightly.  Top with cheddar.  Melt the remaining butter and toss with bread crumbs.  Sprinkle atop casserole.  Bake at 350 until heated through, 40-45 minutes.

This recipe was given to me years ago by my late sister-in-law, LaNell

Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies 

Makes 40 cookies

1 stick butter 1 tsp vanilla

½ cup milk 3 cups quick-cooking oats

2/3 cup cocoa 1 cup chopped nuts

2 cups sugar

½ tsp salt

Combine all of left column in saucepan and bring to boil.  Boil two minutes.  Add 1 tsp vanilla.  Remove from heat and add 3 cups oats.  Add 1 cup nuts.  Drop by teaspoon on wax paper and let set.

This luscious dish was brought to me by my friend Tara when my husband was sick.

Overnight Lasagna 

Serves 8 to 10

1 ½ lb ground beef or ground turkey

1 (32 oz) jar spaghetti sauce

1 to 2 tsp Italian seasonings

Handful of fresh spinach or 1 pkg frozen (defrosted) (optional)

Fresh sliced mushrooms or 1 can mushrooms (optional)

24 oz cottage cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

6 uncooked lasagna noodles

2 eggs

Brown ground beef or turkey and drain off fat.  Add jar of spaghetti sauce and Italian seasonings.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add spinach and/or mushrooms to sauce if desired.  In separate bowl, mix cottage cheese, eggs, and cheeses.  Glaze bottom of 9x13 pan with meat sauce.

Put casserole together as follows: 1. One layer of uncooked noodles in bottom of pan, 2. Spread ½ of meat sauce over noodles, 3. Pat all of cheese mixture over meat sauce, 4. Add second layer of uncooked noodles, 5. Top with remaining meat sauce.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (or for a few hours if making in the morning for that evening).  Top with more shredded mozzarella cheese, bake 1 hour at 375.

World's easiest dessert from Tara's mother-in-law, Ronnie.

Fruit Crunch Cake or Pie  (uses apple pie filling, but is also good with cherry or blueberry)

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in juice

1 (21 oz) can pie filling

1 (18.5 oz) box butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans

¾ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.  Pour pineapple with juice into 9x13 baking pan or two 8 inch pie pans; spread evenly over bottom of the dish.  Spoon pie filling evenly over pineapple.  Sprinkle cake mix over pie filling, level with a fork.  Sprinkle pecans evenly over cake mix, drizzle with melted butter.  Bake 35-45 minutes or until browned and bubble.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yummy recipes you might want to try

Hi, guys:

I dug these recipes up for my appearance at the Cozy Chicks blog, but I want to share them with you, too. I know the big meal day is coming up and thought some of you might want to try some of them.

Peanut Butter Roll-out Cookies


1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely crushed corn flake cereal
1/4 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, eggs, oil and sugar until fluffy. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cereal and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, mixing until a soft dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to 1/4″ thickness. Cut into shapes and transfer to a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. (Or you can lightly grease the cookie sheet). Bake 10-12 minutes.

Pretzel Kisses


1 Bag round Rold Gold Pretzels
1 Bag Hershey Kisses (original plain choc)
1 Bag M&M’s (any color or for Christmas, red and green, school colors, valentines day colors, Halloween colors, etc.)


Set Pretzels out on cookie sheet covered with wax paper, unwrap each kiss and place in the center of the round pretzel, then place them in the oven just until kiss starts to get soft (about 2 mins) then take out of the oven and place M&M’s in the center of the kiss and press down to make the kiss press into the side of the pretzel, place in the fridge for about an hour to let them get hard and serve!

Tiramisu with Mascarpone Buttercream


For cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For espresso extract:

2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp boiling water

For espresso syrup:

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp Kahlua

For frosting:

12 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temp
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Kahlua


To make cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pan with liners. Sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and mix to combine. Add eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, ending with the flour mixture. Mix until flour just incorporated into batter. Fill cupcake liners about 1/2- 3/4 full and bake for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

To make espresso extract:

In a small bowl, stir espresso powder and boiling water together until blended. Set aside.

To make espresso syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar together and bring just to a boil. Pour syrup into small bowl and stir in 1 tbsp of espresso extract and Kahlua. Set aside.

To assemble cupcakes:

Poke holes in cupcakes with a fork or toothpick. Spoon about 1-2 tsp of espresso syrup over each cupcake. (Let syrup soak in a little at a time before you add more or it will overflow.) Using a large round tip (I used a star tip) pipe frosting over cupcake and sprinkle with cocoa powder.

For frosting:

Beat butter and mascarpone cheese until light and creamy. Add sugar and continue beating until smooth. Frosting can be made several days ahead of time and stored lightly covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temp before frosting cupcakes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Utterly Fantastic

This pitcher/creamer combo just tickles my fancy. It can be found on If you cannot tell by the picture, it has utters in the middle of the pitcher to hold your milk or cream.
So, if you know someone who has everything, this may be the perfect Christmas gift! Imagine the giggles when someone opens this up on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stolen From My Own Blog

In the interest of getting more work done, I am again plagiarizing my own self.

I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday! W00t!

DOWN AND DIRTY DEATH is past the 30,000-word mark, and it's true what they say in the pep talks: By the time you have that much material, you have so much in your mind about plots and characters and motifs, you can't type fast enough.

I'm very proud of myself, because this morning I wrote my first out-of-sequence bit. I tend to write a bit, then write a bit more and go back and stuck something in and write some more, then go back and insert something or change something else. This year, I'm making heavy use of the Comments feature of Word (and OpenOffice), opening the Comments window and making notes to myself about what to go back and put in later, not now. Now, I'm writing. Later, I'll revise. And I always write in sequence. I have to write A and transition to B and transition to D through C. Today, I wrote a paragraph and realized it belonged later in the ms and just double-spaced and went on with the scene I was writing. It'll still be there when I need it. Maybe someday, maybe this very year, I'll get loose enough to have a file called Bits To Put In Later, where I can stash paragraphs and ideas and conversations that come to me out of sequence. This may not seem like a very big deal to some of you but, to a control freak like me, this is major progress.

Here is a snippet from the book. Mama and LeJune have uncovered a crime their cousin Packy is involved in. They're investigating it themselves, hoping to keep the family from getting involved with the police. Packy is staying with them temporarily. Packy tends to comment negatively on anything he possibly can, including LeJune's weight.


"I usually have a snack before bedtime," he informed us. To me, he said, "I know you do."

"Can I turn him in now, Mama?" I said, which was just mean.

"I'll fix it," Mama said.

Packy and I sat and watched part of some doctor show until Mama came back with toast and hot chocolate.

Packy made a face after his first sip. "What is this?"

"It's Black Forest flavor," Mama said. "Got cherry flavoring in it."

"Well, it tastes like cold medicine."

"We like it," I said, dipping my buttered toast into the cocoa and slurping up the soggy bread.

"Ugh!" Packy said, but I notice he drank every drop.

While Mama and I washed up, I said, "I hid the car keys, but I'm afraid the sneaking skunk will call a cab and go back to Aunt Mimi's house and raid those diaries."

"That's just the kind of thing he would do," Mama agreed. "That's why I put a shot of cold medicine in his cocoa. He'll sleep like a baby until we wake him up in the morning."


Back to work!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Peasant Pies

A month or so ago, our friend Kat Richardson, author of the Greywalker Series, was on book tour in San Francisco. After a decadent evening of food and wine (and feline entertainment), followed by a walk on the beach the next morning, we went to see Kat talk at Borderlands, one of the premiere horror/sci-fi/fantasy bookstores in the Bay Area. Kat goes off on interesting tangents and one of them involved her research trip to England, a visit to a pub, and meat pies.

While her entire talk was interesting, what stuck with both Dave and I afterward was the idea of a meat pie. It sounded so good ... and we were both hungry. Sadly, we were many miles from a pub in England.

We had another author reading to go to in Noe Valley at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore (the oldest mystery bookstore in the United States, btw), so we parked the car and went in search of something to fill the void. Lo and behold, a block and a half from the bookstore, we stumbled across a little hole in the wall called Peasant Pies (for some reason, Blogger will not create a link here, so please check out The smells wafting from the entrance were enticing, so we went inside.

My, oh my...Let me share the menu with you. And keep in mind, the average calorie count for the savory pies are around "300 calories with little fat or cholesterol and substantial amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals."

Hand-made fresh every morning, our bread crust pie consists of unbleached and whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water. We fill the pies with fresh vegetables, poultry, or seafood, and then bake to a golden crust. Voilá.
Pie Description Vegetarian Vegan Nutrition
Basque Beef & Potato
Ground beef is sauteed with onion and spices, then simmered with our own tomato sauce, mushrooms and roasted potatoes.
view nutrition info
Chicken Potato
Boneless, skinless cubes of chicken is cooked with spices, then mixed with roasted potatoes, onion, celery, carrot, peas, and fresh dill.
view nutrition info
Curried Potato
Red potatoes, yam, scallions, and fresh ginger are mixed with curry powder and then roasted.
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Ham, Eggs and Cheese
Eggs are scrambled with Jack cheese and caramelized onion. Then we mix in the diced smoked ham.
view nutrition info
Moroccan Lentil
Lentils are soaked overnight and then cooked. The lentils are then mixed with yams, sauteed onions, cumin, and other spices.
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Spicy Clam Tomato Sauce
Baby clams are added to our own spicy tomato sauce and then baked in the pies. This is our spiciest pie.
view nutrition info
Spicy Eggplant & Tomato
Eggplant is roasted and chopped coarsely. We then add sliced black olives, our own homemade spicy tomato sauce, and garlic.
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Spicy Black Bean & Tofu
Black beans are soaked overnight and then cooked with our own spices. The beans are mixed with tofu, onion, carrot, and peas.
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Spinach & Feta Cheese
Fresh spinach is steamed and then mixed with Monterey Jack cheese, feta cheese, and beaten eggs.
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Eggs, Veggies & Cheese Scrambled eggs are mixed with tomatoes, onions, broccoli, mushrooms, and Monterey Jack Cheese. checkmark view nutrition info
Zucchini, Mushroom & Cheese
Fresh raw mushrooms, zucchini, and basil are mixed with garlic, olive oil, and Monterey Jack cheese.
checkmark view nutrition info

Sweet Pies
Hand-made fresh every morning, our sweet pie crust consists of pastry flour, butter, and sugar. We then fill the pies with fresh fruit and bake to a golden crust.
Pie Description Vegetarian Vegan
Apple Cranberry
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with sliced fresh apples, cranberry and fruit puree. We then top the pie with a thin layer of apricot jelly.
Blueberry Pear
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with sliced fresh pear, whole blueberries and fruit puree. We then top the pie with a thin layer of apricot jelly.
Cherry Banana & Chocolate
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with chocolate, fruit puree, sliced fresh banana and whole cherries.
Chocolate Flan
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with cream, egg, sugar, and bittersweet dark chocolate.
Pumpkin Pecan
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with pumpkin puree, ginger, egg, and cream. We then top the pie with a thin layer of apricot jelly.
Vanilla Flan
Our own delicate pastry crust filled with cream, egg, sugar, and pure vanilla.

At $2.85 a piece for these tasty and satisfying delights, you can't beat the price or the flavor!

Thank you, Kat, for the inspiration to give this place a try!