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.