Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday: A Thanksgiving Tradition Updated

Yep, another recipe. Who here remembers (or still makes) this green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and crispy onions? Well, around here, I make a different version that has my family begging for more. It's tastier and not difficult. Why not give it a try?

Green Bean Casserole With Cheddar

3 TBSP butter
1 c chopped mushrooms
1/4 c chopped onions
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 c milk
2 c shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, separated
4 c fresh or frozen green beans, steamed to just-cooked crispness
1/2 c bread crumbs 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms, saute until mushrooms are browned and onions are translucent. Add flour, salt and pepper and stir briskly until well combined. Gradually add in milk, stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring until mixture is thickened (the consistency of cream of mushroom soup). Add 1-1/2 c cheese and stir until cheese is completely melted into the creamy mixture. 

Toss green beans into a greased 2-qt casserole dish. Pour hot mixture over the beans, mix well. Top with remaining cheddar and sprinkle bread crumbs over cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until contents are bubbly with a golden crust on top.  

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Do You Brine Your Turkey?

I did it for the first time last Thanksgiving and I found it made a difference in the level of flavor and the moistness of the meat. The entire bird was just a lot...yummier.

Wanna give it a try? Here's how I do it:

1 c kosher (coarse) salt
1/4 c sugar
4 qts water, separated

Using a large stock pot, heat 2 qts of water mixed with salt and sugar over high heat. Stir occasionally until salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Add additional 2 qts water and store in refrigerator until fully chilled. 

Use a fresh turkey or if you have a frozen one, fully defrost. Remove the giblets, liver, and neck. Double bag two turkey oven bags and roll down the tops slightly to keep them open. Place the bags in a roasting pan (or cooler!) Place turkey, breast side down, in the innermost bag, then pour the brine over the turkey. Tighten the inner bag until it's as close to the turkey as possible, then tie with twist tie. Tie the outer bag. Keep chilled (in fridge or pack the cooler with ice) for 12-18 hours. 

At the end of the time, discard the brine and bags. Season and roast turkey as you normally would. 

See if you notice a difference! 

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stuff My Son Says

I thought I'd gain a little revenge on the child who, from the moment of conception, threw my body into chaos and now, nearly eighteen years later, refuses to acknowledge me. I do love him for lots of reasons, but one of the things I love the most is the kid's razor wit. Here are some of the things he's said recently.

1. (After waking up "too early" on a Saturday morning--you know, around eleven a.m.) "Now I know how France feels. Every weekend, my bedroom is occupied by invaders." He meant our pets who barrel into his room to let him know it's their time to sleep in there.

2. "You've made a horrible mistake. You put the Christmas chocolates out too early and now they're almost gone. Oh, the humanity!" Guess who ate them all?

3. "Could you do the grocery shopping alone please? When you take Tori, we wind up with a refrigerator full of stuff like kale. When you go with Dad, there's nothing but chocolate cat cookies. When you go alone, you're able to focus on getting real food."

4. (To his sister when she's watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills): "Here's what happens next. Fill-in-the-blank will call Fill-in-the-blank2 a bitch and some feelings will be hurt." Actually, he nailed this one!

5. (In response to the question, "Ooh, is that peppermint ice cream?" from his dad): "No, it's cat turd. Trust me, you won't like it." 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

How to be a Crummy Holiday Guest

So, a few years back, I had some issues with my oven's thermostat at Thanksgiving, and dinner took a little longer to get to the table than anticipated. (It *got* to the table and was quite delicious--just about an hour later than I originally projected.) This year, when I invited one of my guests, she was kind enough to remind me that her family wound up eating most of the Italian bread before dinner last time around because they were starving by the time we sat down to eat. This year, she told me, she was going to warn them in advance to eat before they came. And, through the grapevine, I've been informed that they're threatening if dinner's late again this year, they won't be attending ever again.

Wow. Golly. What ever shall I do?

Here's a tip for holiday guests. Sometimes, stuff happens. You can plan a meal that makes Emeril beg for your recipes, but the electricity goes out, the oven's thermostat blows, or the souffle just frickin' collapses anyway. As a guest, you smile, you thank the host/hostess for all the work (s)he put into the meal, and you enjoy the time you're given with family and friends. You can even laugh about it privately on your way home, if that's your thing.

What you don't do? Belittle the host/hostess for disappointing you and hold it over their heads like a ransom demand.

Luckily, I have a great sense of humor. I'll smile my way through this encounter. Of course, I may just slide a plate with one olive on a toothpick in front of the little fiends just to let them know I'm aware of their rudeness. What they choose to do after that is up to them.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Sharing the Spotlight With Eternally Yours!

This week, I'm the Featured Author at Cleve Sylcox's blog and Eternally Yours is the featured book. Have you read my love-after-death romance yet? No? Why not? It's garnering top reviews and promises to leave you breathless. 

Want a sneak peek? I'll oblige. Here's a scene I've never shared before. Tim died of AIDS and has been haunting a church ever since.  

Jodie scanned the stained glass windows, the giant crucifix, and the sacristy, doubt clouding her mind. She’d expected an apartment or a house, not a place of worship. Had she somehow misinterpreted the coordinates?

“Are you angels?”

The question came from the darkened apse, and Jodie shielded her eyes from the lights overhead to block the glare as she stared in that direction. “I’m sorry?”

A slender male figure floated forward, his face drawn with anguish, eyes wet with tears. “I said, are you angels? I’ve been asking God to send me a sign. I thought you two might be it.”

“We are in a way,” Luc replied from behind her.

Luc! she chastised him silently. You can’t tell him that.

Why not?

Because it’s not true.

Sure it’s true. Not the God part, but we were sent for a reason.

Jodie sighed. The God part is why you can’t let him think we’re angels. You shouldn’t mess with someone’s religious beliefs.

Oh, for Chrissake!

He’s been through enough pain in life, she added. Don’t compound his agony by uncertainty in the hereafter.

All right, he said grudgingly. Aloud, he told the spirit, “We’re here to escort you to the Afterlife.”

The worry lines in Tim Regan’s face eased. “Then I’m forgiven? I won’t spend eternity in hell?”

Jodie smiled. “No, Tim. That much I can promise. You won’t spend eternity in hell.”

Tim sighed and stopped inches from where she hovered. “I screwed up my life so badly. Drugs, alcohol, sex. Kenny was my saving grace. And even for him, I couldn’t stop.”

Hoo-boy, could she relate! Not so much with the drugs, alcohol, and sex part. But she knew all about screwing up her life, despite the presence of her saving grace. If she could live her life over again, she’d do it differently. She supposed Tim Regan felt the same way.

“Kenny forgave me, you know,” the ghost whispered. “I just couldn’t forgive myself.”

Jodie’s heart wept for this poor man’s misery. When she placed a companionable arm around the broken spirit, Luc’s snort tickled her ears. Ignoring her trainer’s mockery, she crooned, “Come on, Tim. It’s time to go home.”

Sniffling, Tim nodded. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For offering me hope. I’ve had so little hope since I betrayed Kenny. It’s nice to know that I can be forgiven, no matter how foolishly I lived my life.”

Now you see one reason why this book is leaving readers sitting back and absorbing what they've read and how it affects them. Stop by Cleve's blog, please. Let him know you appreciate him featuring me and my special story this week!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gifts for the Book Lover on Your List

I did this list last year for writers and had a lot of hits from interesting places, so here we go again with more fun items--this time for all book lovers, be they readers or writers or both.

1. Bookmarks with LED Lights: Love to read at night but worried about keeping your bedmate awake? These lights shine just on your book, save your page, and will last for 10,000 hours.

2. NovelTeas: 25 Teabags with quotes from world-famous literature

3. Book Lovers Scrabble: The classic board game with a "novel twist." Play a traditional game or add the Plot Twist cards for extra points and lots more fun.

4. Open Book Nightlight: Open the "book" to turn on the light, close it to turn off.

5. I Never Read Without My Glasses T-Shirt: Features two filled wine goblets for the "glasses" part.  

6. Bookshelf Pocket Watch Pendant: It's a necklace; it's a pocket watch. It has a picture of a bookshelf on it!

7. Charles Dickens Tie Clip: Because who doesn't want an author's head keeping their tie tacked down?

8. Stack of Books Ornament: A stockpile of books on a string for your favorite book nerd, student, or graduate.

9. Great First Lines of Literature Mug: All the classics on one mug!

10. Paddywax Library Soy Candles: Choose from an assortment of classical authors including Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Leo Tolstoy, each with unique scents.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Sneak Peek: Waiting in the Wings

Since I've plunged back into WAITING IN THE WINGS, I thought I'd share a little peek at what I've been working on. This is Book III of the Afterlife Series. In this particular scene, Xavia Donovan (remember her from IN YOUR DREAMS?) is meeting with Uriah, her Elder Counselor to discuss her relationship with Children's Services agent, Osiris Cavanaugh.

Xavia sat on her grammy’s porch—well, the Afterlife version anyway. On the condensation-frosted lemonade pitcher, a water bead slid from lip to base. Her eyes tracked the descent while she considered the brevity of life. How much time had she spent here—lost here? In this realm beyond the sun and moon, where day never turned to night, time, as measured on Earth, didn’t exist. Employees in the Afterlife didn’t sleep or eat or use a bathroom. No longer flesh and bone, denizens of this place consisted of swirling energy: walking, talking mini-galaxies of electricity.

“Xavia?” Uriah’s espresso-dark voice woke her from her reflection.


“I asked you about your friendship with Osiris Cavanaugh.”

“What about it? I like him,” she admitted with an edge of umbrage. “He’s gruff and confused and pretty screwed up about some things, but he’s generally harmless. And I think I can help him. Already, his aura’s softened up, and he’s lost the noxious smell he used to walk around with. We’re working on getting that vile alarm under control, too.” A glimmer of doubt crept into her psyche, and she cocked her head to study Uriah’s solemn, black-lined eyes. “I have helped him, haven’t I?”

“What do you think?”

“I think…no, I know I helped him come to terms with some of his issues. Mind you, he’s a looooong way from perfect, but we’ve made progress together.”

Uriah nodded. “I happen to agree. As does the Board. Are you willing to continue working with Sergeant Cavanaugh?”

Her first reaction was suspicion. Was this a trick?

Past experience with the Board and its Council of Elders had taught her to tread lightly. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t be?”

“No. But he does take up a lot of your time. Do you think you can continue to handle your Probation workload while dealing with the sergeant?”

A bitter laugh escaped her tight lips. “Are you for real? That’s what has you worried? My workload? I have a staff of twenty in my department. If I find myself in a time crunch, I can always spread the wealth. That’s not a problem. And I’m pretty sure you know that. So why don’t you cut the crap and tell me the truth for once? Do you guys want me to work with Osiris or not?”

“We do.”

“Fine. Great. Peachy. I’m happy to help. Was that so hard?”

“We wanted to make sure the sergeant’s issues didn’t unduly burden you.”

Forget treading lightly. Now they’d pissed her off. “Since when do you care? With all the crap you’ve thrown at me since I got here—punishing me by forbidding me to ever see my son, pairing me up with his killer, reuniting me with my son who’ll never recognize me or fully comprehend the link we share, and then stealing both of them from me when we made our peace between us—now, all of a sudden, you want me to think I matter to you?”

Uriah’s placid expression never wavered. “You do matter, Xavia. Every one of our charges matters to us. You may not always understand or approve of our methods, but we do what we think is best for you. For all of you. Tell me, knowing now what you didn’t know then, would you have preferred to never see your son, or learn the fate of his killer?”

“Of course not.” Regardless of the pain she’d suffered finding them both, knowing them on this side of life had taught her so much—and given her a peace she never would have found without them. “I understand why they were both crucial in helping me come to terms with what happened in my life that led to my suicide on Earth. So now, I want to use what I’ve learned to help someone else: Osiris. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

That question earned her another nod. “We’ve already established it is. I just want to make sure you’re up to the task, should your…challenges become more…challenging.”

“Let’s call a spade a spade. You mean, when I find out how Osiris and I are connected. Why not tell me now? Get it over with. Let’s rrrrip the Band-Aid off the wound and air it out, shall we?” She leaned forward and wheedled, “Come on, you can tell me. Was he my master on the plantation? The one whose family I killed by cooking up the wrong antidote to the poison I fed them? The one who ordered me hanged as a warning to other slaves?”

His fathomless expression never wavered.

“Was he the Gestapo officer who turned me in? Or the spy who told them where to catch me on that last trip to Alsace?” At last, she noted surprise register in his eyes for a glimmer. “Ah, I’m close, aren’t I?” Leaning back again, she pushed the swing into rocking on the humid South Carolina air. “Don’t sweat it, Uriah. I’ve learned so much about this place in my time here, I could probably do your job now.”

WAITING IN THE WINGS will be released in March 2015.

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