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.
checkmark checkmark view nutrition info
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.
checkmark checkmark view nutrition info
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.
checkmark checkmark view nutrition info
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.
checkmark checkmark view nutrition info
Spinach & Feta Cheese
Fresh spinach is steamed and then mixed with Monterey Jack cheese, feta cheese, and beaten eggs.
checkmark view nutrition info
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!