Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

Down on the Farm

September 15, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Catherine Castle

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my grandparents down on their farm.

Mom and Dad would pack us up in the car after Dad got home from work and we’d drive down into the hills of Kentucky for the weekend.

The house would always be dark when we arrived. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t have a phone, so they were never expecting us on our weekend trips. It was probably only nine or ten p.m. when we arrived, but my grandparents were farmers who went to bed with the chickens the minute it got dark outside.

The moment Daddy pounded on the door, my grandparents awoke and the lights came on. After hugs and kisses, we were hustled into the kitchen for hand pies, cornbread, leftover shucky beans, and meat. It never failed to amaze me how much food Grandma had on hand, especially since it was only her and Grandpa there. The hand pies were half-moon pastries made from dried apples Grandma had preserved. The meat varied, depending on whether she’d killed a chicken or they had purchased beef from someone. The shucky beans were the item my mouth always watered for—and still does today. It’s been years since I’ve eaten them, but I remember the salty, silky texture of the once-dried bean.

You say you don’t know what shucky beans are?

Shucky beans are green beans that have been dried in the shell. Shucky beans were always on the table at Grandma’s house. In fact, I don’t remember ever eating any other kind of green bean when we visited her.

Mom and Grandma always used white half-runner beans, although I do remember Mom using other green beans when she couldn’t get half-runners. Every summer we would visit Grandma and help her preserve the veggies from her garden. Getting the shucky beans ready was something I could do as a child, because Grandma preserved her beans the old-fashioned way. She strung them on cotton thread and hung them on the back porches until they dried.

The process was time consuming, but I don’t remember minding it at all. While the black-eyed Susans nodded in the breeze at the front of the yard, I strung my pan of beans sitting on the white porch swing, listening to the chains creaking softly above me and Mom and Grandma talk. There was something satisfying about watching the green column of beans grow on the thread, knowing I was going to enjoy the taste of them in the fall and winter. Grandma always shared some of the crop with us.

Below are the quick instructions for making Shucky Beans as given to me by my mother. Notice there are no amounts given for beans: Grandma and Mom just strung them until they were all picked from the garden. From my research I’ve discovered a bushel of fresh beans makes about 1 gallon of Shucky Beans.

Grandma’s Shucky Bean Recipe 

Pick white, half-runner beans when they have a bean in them. Do not wash beans. Break ends and remove the string from the beans. Using a sturdy needle and white cotton string, knotted on one end, string the beans. Pierce the bean pod and not the bean with the needle. When the string is almost full, tie the ends and place in a warm place to dry: an attic, porch, or in the direct sun.

Depending on how you plan to dry them, either tie the ends together to make a circle, or make a loop in one end, so they can be hung on a nail. You could also just knot the other end and drape over a clothes line.  I know Grandma hung hers on the back porch, but I’ve read about other cooks drying their beans on sheets laid on patio tables, car hoods, and even spread in the back window of a vehicle. If you don’t want to do this the old fashioned way, you can use a food dehydrator. I actually dried a few of them last year on a rack on the kitchen table. I stored them in a glass jar. I haven’t cooked them yet. I just like to open the pantry door and look at them. It reminds me of Grandma and those lazy summers as a child.

Once the beans have dried, they can be stored in the freezer in plastic freezer bags. Just be sure they are really dry before you store them. When you can run your fingers through a batch and hear a rattling sound, reminiscent of the sound dried corn shucks make, beans should be dry enough to store.

To Cook: Place the beans, strings and all, in a pot and boil for 30 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the beans. Take them off the strings and place in a clean pot with more water and seasonings. A cottage ham or slab of bacon works well as seasoning. Cook until tender, about 2-2 ½ hours.

Some recipes call for the beans to be washed before stringing.  Grandma didn’t use pesticides, so she didn’t have to worry about chemicals. If you wash the beans before stringing, make sure they are hung where the air can reach all sides to prevent spoilage. Other recipes also suggest removing the beans from the string before boiling. I’m not sure which method works best, since I can’t recall what I did the one time I cooked the beans.

Have you ever eaten Shucky Beans? How did you like them?

While your beans are cooking, check out Catherine’s Romantic comedy with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

 

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems.

In addition to writing she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances.

You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow Catherine on TwitterFB, and her blog.

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Time for Tea and Scones

September 8, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

by C.D. Hersh

A recurring character in our series The Turning Stone Chronicles and his favorite snack.

In our Turning Stone Chronicles paranormal romance series the Keeper of the Stone, an ancient Scottish man named Eli McCraigen, serves an ever-present cup of tea and scones when serious matters need to be discussed. You’ll see him in every book brewing his tea and serving scones or biscuits of some sort. Our character most likely does this because tea is a breakfast ritual at the C.D. Hersh house.

Catherine loves a good cup of Scottish tea and drinks either a robust cup of Scottish or Irish Breakfast tea every morning. Her Scottish and Irish teas of choice are Taylors brand, imported from across the pond. Donald prefers something with a bit more flavoring and brews a cup of Bigelow Carmel Vanilla tea. Most of the time we have high-fiber toast with our morning tea, but today we wanted to share an authentic Scottish recipe–scones (which when pronounced correctly rhymes with gone).

Catherine got the recipe a number of years ago from a lovely Scottish lady named Rhoda, who immigrated to America at the end of WWII after she fell in love with an American G.I.

We hope you’ll enjoy Rhoda’s scones!

Scottish Scones

    • 2½ cups buttermilk
      ½ tsp. salt
      6 tbsp. shortening
      2 tbsp. sugar
      3 tsp. baking powder
      2 cups flour
      • Preheat oven to 375° F.

Sift dry ingredients, cut in the shortening until mixture looks crumbled. Add buttermilk, enough to moisten the flour.

Turn mixture onto lightly floured board and pat in to a round 1 inch thick. Cut into 12 triangles. Place on greased cookie sheet.

Bake about 20 minutes. Serves 10-12

If you want to make this more festive, you can add chocolate chips to the mix or finely diced apples and some cinnamon, or other chopped fruits. The scones won’t be purely Scottish anymore, but they’ll be more dessert worthy, as scones are really just a Scottish version of what we Americans call biscuits.

To go along with your scones here’s a scene from The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1) that has Eli serving his tea and scones.

Alexi thumbed her cell phone off and shoved it into her pocket. “Rhys should be here in a couple of minutes. Are you sure we need to do this?”

Eli took the screaming teakettle off the stove and poured boiling water into a ceramic teapot. “Aye. We have tae make sure he’s included. We need him.” He dropped three tea bags into the water and set on the lid. “He may not be a shifter, but he has a gun and, unless I miss my guess, isnae afraid to use it. Besides, going off and doing things on our own, without keeping him informed twill only push him away. Tae get him tae accept who he is we need tae draw him in.”

She lined the three mugs on the counter next to the scones Eli had prepared. “I don’t know. He’s been very resistant.”

“So’s a salmon in a bear’s mouth. All that flopping about after he’s been caught is for naught. But if he’d heeded the shadow on the water he might have stayed in the stream.”

“So your strategy is to keep Rhys in water?”

“‘Tis tae make him see the shadow, lassie. That’ll keep him alive and hopefully coming tae our side.”

Alive was good. So was on their side. She rubbed the frown creases between her eyes. Worry deepened the two lines more every day.

“Dinna be afeart. I have a plan.”

That was good, because she was fresh out of ideas. The doorbell rang. Alexi answered it and ushered Rhys into the kitchen.

Rhys eyed the scones and teapot. “Tea party, for me?” He took a scone and bit into it. “I’m not easily swayed by sweets, old man.”

“Yer actions would say different, laddie. But ‘tis for me. I’m an auld man, set in his ways, and ‘tis tea time in Scotland.”

Now if your scones are ready and tea brewed how about checking out our series.

BIO: C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.
Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and d iscovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Plus their paranormal series titled The Turning Stone Chronicles.

They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Social Media Info:

Website

Soul Mate Publishing

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

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Summer Dinner Italian Style

August 30, 2021 | Cooking

from Tina Griffith

Like ‘The Elusive Mr. Velucci,’ the Caprese Salad was born on the beautiful island of Capri, known as the Peral of the Gulf of Naples. This classic dish was created around 1920 when it first appeared on the menu of the Hotel Quisiana. The salad was part of futurist dinner organized by Filippo Tommaso Marinette, an Italian poet, editor, art theorist, and founder of the Futurist movement.

This delightful salad is one of the simplest and most appreciated dishes of the summer as it is always served chilled and is known as the Queen of Italian tables. And let’s not forget that the brilliant colors of red tomatoes, green basil, and white mozzarella are basically the Italian flag served on a plate.

How do you make this wonderful summer salad? My method is very easy. The amounts on each ingredient are your choice, but don’t stint on the tomatoes and cheese.

Tina’s Caprese Salad
Cooked curly pasta
Ripe cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella cheese
Cucumber, peeled
Black olives, sliced
Fresh basil leaves, hand-ripped
Extra virgin olive oil or Italian dressing

Cook pasta until just al dente. Drain in a colander then rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Spread pasta on a towel to dry.

Dice tomatoes, cheese, and cucumber. Scoop into a large bowl. Stir in olives and basil. Mix well.

Carefully blend in pasta and just enough oil to moisten the mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

Here’s a bit from Tina’s most romantic and heartbreaking novel to date.

Enrico and Sadie were now standing alone, and it was their turn to say good-bye. They faced each other, he took her hands in his, and he spoke in an extremely compassionate tone.

“I didn’t realize how much you would mean to me when we first met”, he whispered with total sincerity. His eyes had filled up and he could hardly see, and with everything in his soul, he very much wanted to stay right where he was. He was miserable because he knew he couldn’t, so he promised to come back as soon as possible.

“Enrico”, she whimpered, as she looked lovingly into his eyes. Her voice had a gentle softness to it, with undertones of abandonment. She wanted to say a thousand more words, but they got stuck in her throat.

“I know”, he revealed, in a voice that was fragile and shaking. It was quite evident to everyone around them, that he wasn’t prepared to say good-bye to the beautiful girl standing in front of him. He brought his forehead forward until it was touching hers, and they cried with immense fear that they would never see each other again.

An announcement came over the P.A., which stated that all passengers must get checked in. It was in that moment when Enrico knew in his heart, that no miracle was coming and that he would have to leave. He pulled his head back from hers and looked deep into Sadie’s unhappy eyes. He had not expected to fall in love, and now he could feel his own heart breaking.

Enrico placed both of his hands against the sides of her face, and slowly closed his eyes. With all the love he had inside of him, he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her nose, and then her mouth. It baffled him that this woman had provided him with the absolute need to love another living soul, for he would not have guessed that to be possible. He wanted to hold her, take care of her, know her whereabouts, and love her for the rest of his life, but he could not; he had waited too long to change the course of his immediate future.

Enrico was becoming frustrated that he had taken eight months to get to know her, but he had only had six hours to really love her. He pulled her body closer to his, and then held on tight. ‘If only I had known or acted sooner…’ he whispered.
Enrico needed to go, so he ended their embrace as hurriedly as it had begun.

A flash of wild grief suddenly ripped through her soul, as Sadie realized the true reality of what was happening. “Enrico!” she cried from every pore in her body. Her eyes were begging him to stay, while her heart was breaking into a million pieces. The whole thing suddenly felt very real, and severe panic began to fill every fiber of her being.

Enrico examined her face and he knew what she wanted. “I’ll be back”, he assured her, in a voice that was both soft and trying to stay strong. He picked up his suitcase with one hand, and he placed something in her hand with the other.

Without looking to see what it was, she swaddled the object safely in the palm of her hand, while keeping her eyes locked with his.

Enrico twisted his upper body to face his family and shouted, “Good-bye everyone!” He turned around to take one more look into the face of his beloved Sadie, and then he began to walk away.

“No!” she shouted loudly. The simple word dissolved into the air like a crispy leaf in the fall.

Enrico hadn’t gotten very far, and now it was him who was falling apart. He took one more look in her direction, put his hand to his mouth, and blew her a kiss. “Bye for now!” he said quietly. As he faced forward again, he began to cry. Not full-out crying like a small child who had gotten hurt on the playground, but a grown man’s frustration and enormous displeasure of things that he couldn’t fix or change.

Nothing in her mind or body was able to let him go, and now Sadie felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her muscles were paralyzed and she was experiencing numbness all over. Her eyebrows were raised, her eyes were wide open, and a look of extreme anxiety shot across her face.

While Enrico was moving his feet, he was trying to hide his appearance from the other travelers. He was utterly depressed and having a hard time forcing his emotions to stay down. He tried to make it look like he was holding back a sneeze rather than a flood of tears, but when one or two drops of salty water leaked out from their moist environment, Enrico wiped them off of his face with the sleeve of his right arm and kept going.

Sadie had been watching the man she loves walk away, and with an incredible amount of courage, she boldly took a few steps towards him. “En-ri-co!” She shouted his name as she extended her left hand far in front of her body, but he didn’t turn around. With sheer desperation gushing from the very core of her soul, she wanted to run after him, to hold him one last time, but she knew she couldn’t; their time was up.

Enrico heard her calling him, but he couldn’t bear to turn around again; he knew that if he saw her, he would run back into her arms and he would never let go. Instead, he made himself a promise to return to New York as soon as he could.

Sadie stood frozen in her tracks, while anxiety guided her every thought. She watched Enrico, as he continued to walk in a hurried pace, and she wanted him to come back. “Enrico”, she sighed, with little air passing through her trembling lips. “I love you.” Her head was bent in sorrow while the world was crashing down around her.

After Enrico boarded the large vessel, he made sure to stand on the very end of the large deck. He was facing her, but they were so far apart. His hand leaped high into the air and swayed back and forth, as he watched her wave back to him. He could tell that she was beckoning him to come back, and it was killing him that he couldn’t.

Sadie’s heart leaped in her chest when she saw him. “Enrico!” she called loudly. She saw him waving, and she waved back with as much energy as she could muster. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the handsome man, who only hours ago, had made passionate love to her. “I’m here!” she cried. Her voice had cracked and was full of raw emotion.

Enrico’s face was wearing the biggest smile of his life, and he waved with all of his might. “Sadie!” he called, as if she could hear him.

“Enrico!” she shouted. She knew in that instance that he was the man who she would love for the rest of her life.

The ship blew its horn a few times, and then it slowly pulled away from the dock.

“No!” she screamed, as her body went into an even bigger panic mode. Tears were trickling down her moist and flushed cheeks, as her soul was being smashed into a thousand different pieces. “Please don’t leave!” she pleaded at the top of her lungs. She was yelling with as much force as she had in her body, and was stunned that no-one was looking in her direction. ‘Why were they not helping me get him back?’ she wondered wildly.

“Sadie!” Enrico called, but the sound of his words were not as clear anymore. “I love you!” he added happily. “Can you hear me?”

With all the noise that was around her, Sadie’s ears didn’t get to receive his tender words. “How will I go on without you?” she cried, while choking on her own tears. Her heart was in her throat, her will to live had been taken away, and now there was a horrible, empty ache in her soul.

“Enrico!” Sadie shouted at full volume. She continued to step closer and closer to the edge of the platform, as the ship appeared to go further and further away from the shore. “No-o-o-o-o!” she screamed, as if that would somehow stop what was happening.

With each moment that passed, their hearts were growing heavier with the sadness that was now weighing them down. Minute-by-minute, their emotional pain was getting worse, and almost an hour later, the ship was nothing more than a mere dot on the large body of water.

Sadie had fallen to her knees before the ship had totally disappeared, and it was then when she discovered what Enrico had placed in her closed fist – a beautiful silver locket. On the left side of the elaborately engraved heart, was a picture of Enrico. On the right, was a picture of her.

AMAZON BUY LINKS E-BOOK PAPERBACK

Tina Griffith, who also wrote twenty-seven children’s books as Tina Ruiz, was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school.

After her husband of 25 years passed away, she wrote romance novels to keep the love inside her heart. Tina now has eleven romance novels on Amazon, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they are different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and her sister’s scary biography.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children’s Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her second husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children’s books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina (Griffith) Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

 

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Cheers! Time to Celebrate

August 18, 2021 | Cooking

The traditional Bank Holiday is the last Monday in August. Great Britain and Canada have celebrated this day for over two hundred years. It is a public holiday that gives everyone the day off work, but it also signifies the end of summer and the last weekend before school starts. The Brits make the most of the long weekend by travelling to their caravans (campers), visiting family and friends, or hosting parties in their gardens (backyards). No matter what they choose to do, this menu will pop up sometime during the three-day weekend.

MENU
Fish & Chips
Mushy Peas
Tartar Sauce
British Beer – Bass Ale, Foster’s Lager, Carling Black Label

Fish
2 lbs. (1kg) fresh cod
Water
2 tbsp. (30ml) salt

Cut fish into serving pieces, but not too small. Pour a small amount of water into a large bowl. Stir in salt until it dissolves. Add fish. Set bowl in fridge for about 3 hours.

Batter
1 cup (100g) flour
1 egg yolk
5 tbsp. (75ml) beer, not Lite
6 tbsp. (90ml) milk
5 tbsp. (75ml) water
2 egg whites

Pour flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the center then add egg yolk and beer. Stir until well mixed. Combine milk and water. Gradually pour blend into batter and stir until smooth.

Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes on your counter away from sun and heat.

Beat egg whites until they form unwavering peaks. Gently fold them into batter.

Chips
1 large baking potato per person
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Salt

No need to peel potatoes unless you have an aversion to the skin. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and then into strips ½ inch (1.25cm) wide and thick. Drop them in a bowl of cold water. Set in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 250° F (120°C).

Line a cookie sheet or roasting pan with paper towels.

Heat oil on medium-high until a chunk of white bread fries quickly to a golden brown.

Drain potatoes and pat dry. Carefully drop slices into oil by handfuls. Fry until potatoes are crisp and light brown. Removed cooked potatoes to the lined pan. Sprinkle with salt. Set pan in oven to keep warm while you prepare the fish

Cooking the Fish
Pat fish dry. Drop 2 or 3 pieces into batter. Be sure to coat fish well. Plunge pieces into hot oil. Fry 4 – 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn pieces with a spoon to stop them from sticking together and to cook all around. This is tricky because the fish wants to float and isn’t happy to turn over so you can fry the other side. Remove pieces as they cook to the pan with the chips.

To serve, heap fish in the center of a large heated platter. Arrange chips around them.

Traditionally fish and chips are served sprinkled with malt vinegar and salt. It’s best to let people make that choice themselves. My family prefers tartar sauce.

Tartar Sauce
1 cup (100g) real mayonnaise, no imitations
2 small garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 tbsp. (30ml) onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. (30ml) sweet relish
¼ tsp. (1.25ml) freshly ground pepper

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust to your preference.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Stores well in the fridge for 3 weeks.

Mushy Peas
The Brits use marrowfat peas for this classic recipe. Finding them in the US is not easy so I adjusted the recipe to peas that are available in my area. The taste is still good so be sure to give them a try. Leftovers freeze well.

2 cups (200g) frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup (60ml) water
1½ tbsp. (21g) butter
2 tsp. (10ml) lemon juice
¼ tsp. (1.25ml) dried sage
2 pinches sugar
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine peas, water, and butter in a saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes or until peas are soft. Remove pan from heat and smash peas, coarsely, with a potato masher. Stir in remaining ingredients and serve.

May you spend all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

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AN ITALIAN TASTE TREAT

August 11, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Catherine Castle

Traditional carbonara sauce has an egg and cheese sauce added to the spaghetti just before serving. I don’t care for eggs added to things at the last minute, so I eliminated the eggs and sauce and came up with my own version of carbonara. I hope you’ll like it as much as we do.

Zucchini Spaghetti Carbonara ala Catherine

6 slices thick bacon

4 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

2.5 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

1 cup diced or chunked ham

1 med. zucchini, cut lengthwise and sliced thin

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Divide bacon into 4 and 2 slices. Prepare 4 slices for microwaving by placing between 2 paper towels on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 3 minutes until crisp. Remove from paper while still warm and crumble.

Dice remaining 2 slices and place in a large skillet, cooking until crisp.

While bacon is cooking, boil water for spaghetti and cook as directed on package until pasta is firm. Drain fully when cooked.

While pasta is cooking, sauté ham and zucchini with diced bacon until zucchini is tender.

Drain any excess liquid from the pan.

Add olives and cooked drained spaghetti to zucchini and bacon, tossing to mix.

Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese, tossing quickly to keep cheese from clumping.

Top with crumbled bacon and serve.

Makes 2 generous main dish servings or 4 side dishes.

Note: additional cheese may be sprinkled on top of pasta after serving, if desired.

This dish makes up quick, so you won’t have time to read a book while it’s cooking, but after the dishes are done, check out Catherine’s sweet romantic comedy with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems.

In addition to writing she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog.

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GO CAJUN

August 4, 2021 | Cooking

I had the great pleasure of attending a cooking class with my friend Bonnie several years ago. We were in New Orleans when this bright idea hit us. That’s what enjoying too many Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s in the French Quarter will do to a person. 😊 The next day we were still hot to try our hands at Cajun cooking when we happened on The New Orleans School of Cooking. We enrolled in a class and, as our good luck would have, were the only two students. A great time was had by all!

Since then, I’ve used up all the Joe’s Stuff I bought to season the dish and had to devise a new recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

JAMBALAYA

 2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup onion, chopped

½ cup celery, chopped

½ cup green pepper, chopped

½ tbsp. garlic, chopped

¾ lb. andouille sausage, sliced to pieces 1 inch thick

2½ cups chicken stock, possibly more

½ tsp. dried thyme

¼ cup paprika

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

½ tsp. tabasco sauce2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup rice

1 cup green onions, chopped, include plenty of green

Warm a Dutch oven on medium heat. Pour in oil. When it shimmers add onion, celery, and green pepper. Sauté 7 – 9 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Adjust heat so onion doesn’t burn. Add garlic. Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in sausage and stock. Add remaining ingredients, except rice and green onions, and then stir well.

Add rice and bring to a boil. Cover then lower heat to simmer. Cook 25 minutes. Stir well after each 10 minutes so rice doesn’t stick to pan. Add more stock if the food looks dry.

Sprinkle green onions across the rice mixture when you serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane

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BOTTOMS UP!

July 28, 2021 | Cooking

 Celebrate International Beer Day on the first Friday in August!

International Beer Day was founded in 2007 by bar owner Jesse Avshalomov in Santa Cruz, California and is now celebrated in over 80 countries worldwide. There are three purposes of this day; be with friends while enjoying a glass of beer, celebrate the brewers and servers, and savor different beers from around the world.

I’d like to add a fourth purpose for this auspicious day; enjoying delicious meals made with beer.

Cheers!

MENU

Bratwurst

Sauerkraut

Summer Potato Salad

Rye Bread

German Mustard

Plenty of Your Favorite Beer

Bratwurst

4 – 6 bratwurst links

2 bottles of beer, not Lite

1 med. onion, sliced

Tap water

Sauerkraut, recipe below

Remove sausage from refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Place brats, beer, and onion in a saucepan. Cover meat with cold tap water by 1 inch (2.54cm). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325° F (160°C).

Spoon sauerkraut into an ovenproof dish. Lay brats on top. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Turn sausage and then bake another 10 minutes.

Allow sausage to rest 10 minutes before you serve so the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is best prepared a day in advance and then cooked with the bratwurst. This recipe substitutes some stock with beer to carry out today’s theme.

1 jar or bag sauerkraut

5 slices bacon, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

½ tsp. (2.5ml) ground thyme

1 cup (250ml) chicken stock, not broth

1 cup (250ml) beer, not Lite

Preheat oven to 325° F (160°C).

Empty sauerkraut into a colander. Rinse under tap water several times. Squeeze out most of the moisture and fluff with a fork.

Fry bacon in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Set pieces on a paper towel. Do not pour out grease rendered from the bacon.

Add onion to pan and sauté until translucent, 5 – 7 minutes. Do not brown onion, it will be bitter. Be sure to scrape in all the bits that cling to the sides and bottom of the pan.

Return bacon to saucepan. Stir in sauerkraut. Sprinkle thyme over the mixture. Mix well. Cook 3 – 4 minutes over moderate heat.

Stir in stock and beer. Cover and bake in the oven 30 minutes or until sauerkraut is tender, but still has crunch. This could take as long as 2 hours, depending on the brand you use. Add more stock, if necessary, to keep the sauerkraut moist.

If you make the kraut a day in advance, cover, and refrigerate.

Summer Potato Salad

This recipe from Germany is for four people. Don’t worry about the extra if you’re planning a romantic dinner for two. Scale back the amounts by half, but I have to tell you, this salad lasts four days in the fridge. It’s just as good then as on the day you first prepare it.

4 medium-sized white potatoes, not peeled

1 cup (100g) onions, chopped

¾ cup (200ml) chicken stock, not broth

⅓ cup (75ml) olive oil

1 tbsp. (15ml) white wine vinegar

2 tsps. (10ml) hot, prepared mustard

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice

Drop potatoes into enough boiling water to cover them completely. Boil briskly until they show only the slightest resistance when pierced with a small, sharp knife. Don’t overcook or you’ll have mush when you complete the recipe. Drain, peel, then cut potatoes into ¼-inch (.64cm) slices. Place them in a bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Combine remaining ingredients except lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Pour sauce over potato slices. Turn them about gently with a spatula or large spoon to coat them. Let the potatoes cool to room temperature, then serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table.

Sloane

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FRUITS OF THE HARVEST

July 21, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

By Emma Lane

Inside Greenhouse Three there are vigorously growing hanging nursery pots of tomatoes. These are cherry tomatoes and they come in red or yellow. Medium-sized, these fruits of the vines are just ripe for popping into you mouth without a smidgeon of preparation. Don’t ask me how I know; I’ll never tell.

Hanging Baskets of Tumbling Toms go out of the greenhouse for sale around the first of May and disappear quickly. They may need to be brought in at night, but they are already in bloom with some tiny tomatoes showing. It’s a way to get a jump start on the season for a delicious tomato taste.

Lately I’ve learned to use them in several different ways that liven up a quickly thrown together summer meal. Below are a few ideas. You’ll spin off into your own vivid imagination, I’m certain, adding salads and main dishes. This is quick and easy fixing that leaves plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine outside.

Tumbling Tom Tomato Appetizers

Party Picks   Crackers of Choice

There are tons of choices for the bottom of your snack which will wind up being topped by half a cherry tomato. I like plain old saltine, but I do experiment with any and all of the offerings. I need to mention that a homemade loaf of bread makes a fantastic “cracker” cut into small squares. Also, just plain toast cut into squares works well.

Next the Spread

These are just a few of the spreads I’ve used:

(1) Canned potted ham (or a chicken spread) mixed with mayo or a touch of mustard. Occasionally I use a pear relish mixed in that is delish. Mix and spread on your crackers lightly. Don’t glob or your cracker will collapse. Still taste good, but not esthetically attractive so soggy.

(2) I’m mad for the whipped cream cheese. ‘Nuff said about that. It’s pretty simple to spread on your crackers. You can add any old spice that strikes you as interesting. I’ve used Season all Salt, cinnamon, Italian seasoning or just a piece of fresh basil. All good. If you use the basil leaf, add a swipe of creamed cheese to glue it to the cracker else it’ll slide right off.

(3) I’m wild for ricotta cheese, but hubby isn’t so we get to ‘decorate’ our crackers individually.

Meat?

Here I use whatever I’ve got in the kitchen. Sliced ham bits are lovely, a sprinkle of the sausage you had for breakfast is great, a bit of corned beef (just a bit because it’s strong), another cheese either cut to fit the cracker or shredded and sprinkled over. Like the crackers, cheeses come in a great assortment chosen to taste.

You’ll find your own preferences for thickness. Slice the cherry tomato in half or into four slices and top your masterpiece. Use a bit of spread to stick it if toppings tend to slide.

Now is the delicate operation that remains a mystery you might keep to yourself. A very small dot of “Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. Shake first and I promise you, you must use only a very small dot on top the tomato. Voila! You are fini.

A plateful of these colorful snack crackers will disappear in a flash. Be sure you get your share. Enjoy!

May I suggest a peek into one of my Regency releases?

Can an arrogant duke overcome his prejudice against a beautiful but managing female in time to find true love and happiness?

Miss Amabel Hawkins acknowledges her unusual upbringing, but she thinks James Langley, the Duke of Westerton, might be a tad unbalanced when he protests her efforts to right his badly managed properties. The duke, who has been away on the king’s business, demonstrates no respect for the beautiful but managing Miss Hawkins. Amabel has taken refuge at Westerton, fleeing from a forced marriage to a man who claims to be her relative in order to gain control of her young brother’s estate.

The Duke arrives home to find his estate under the firm control of a beautiful but managing female. His suspicions are fueled by his recent task of spy-hunting and he wonders if Amabel Hawkins is just who she seems. While a dastardly spy lurks, a wicked man poses as her cousin threatening to take over the guardianship of her young brother. Amabel might be falling in love, but she knows for certain the duke would never approve of a meddlesome woman, and she decides to flee his estate. Will the duke finally realize the true value of the woman he loves or will his prejudice ruin his chances forever?

EXCERPT
Fatigue and the effects of the brandy on top of the ale now gave his gait a distinct wobble. He chuckled, amused at his condition.

As he reached for the portrait of great Uncle Barney, he lurched into the back of the red leather sofa in front of the cosy fire. “Deuce take it,” he exclaimed when a rounded arm rolled into view. He spotted the gentle curve of a hip and walked around to the front, where he spied a tumbled haze of dark curls hiding a face. It is indeed a female—a sleeping female.

Who was she? The gown was too rich for his household staff. Curious, he knelt beside the sofa.
“Only one way to find out,” he whispered and moved one dark curl. He sat back, satisfied when a handsome face swam into view. She sighed and rolled over, revealing a generous figure and a pair of rosy lips. She might be Sleeping Beauty—but not one of my relatives. He leaned over and kissed those tempting lips.

As he lingered there, she sighed and came partially awake. He could not resist. He deepened the kiss and sounds of satisfaction like yum and umm came from those delicious lips. Her hand stroked his face, then reached around his head to pull him closer. Delighted with this turn of events, the Duke of Westerton complied enthusiastically and extended an arm around a slender waist. How much of the ale and brandy had he imbibed? Dizziness overcame his senses as he slid down on the floor and knew no more.

Amazon Buy Link 

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes under several pen-names. She lives with her patient husband on several acres outside a typical American village in Western New York. Her day job is working with flowers at her son’s plant nursery. Look for information about writing and plants on her new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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Love, Peace, and Good Food

July 19, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from C.D. Hersh

Our book Can’t Stop the Music opens in Woodstock and is filled with musical references of the era and food.

Today we’re talking about love, food, and magic. Love was plentiful at Woodstock. Magic mushrooms were probably plentiful, also, but food not so much. The producers didn’t expect the overwhelming crowd that should up and the vendors ran out of food in a very short time.

But you don’t have to worry about that, because we’ve got a special treat for you today.

As writers, we know that love and food go together like romance and a happily-ever-after ending. Maybe that’s why in most of our novels the hero and heroine share a meal of some sort. There’s just something magical about a special dinner with the one you love. Don’t you remember that special dinner, or dinners, with your honey? On the first dinner Catherine made for Donald she accidently fed him a toothpick—which he unwittingly ate. Trust us, we remember that!

Like most humans, we like to eat, and food works its way into our stories. In our book, Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) the hero cooks an Italian meal for the heroine that is positively orgasmic. Can’t Stop the Music is a nostalgic romance set in Woodstock 1969 and contains a paranormal element. The paranormal involves a magic Soul Mate Tree that grants soul mates to deserving persons.

The Soul Mate tree is
An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds.
To some, it’s nothing more than a dream.
To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.
For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

And our heroine and hero are in definitely in need of a happy ending.

Speaking of happy, who doesn’t love a delicious pasta dish? We do, but pasta is something we don’t eat a lot of anymore because of the high carb content. Recently, we’ve begun experimenting with ways to make high-carb pasta meals friendlier, because we do miss our pasta. In the process, we’ve discovered things like lentil and soybean pastas that are great substitutes for wheat pasta. They have a high fiber to carb ratio, which not only puts more fiber in the diet, but slows the release of sugars into the blood stream, both which are great boons to people with insulin resistance issues. The soybean pasta is fantastic and has become our go-to pasta for spaghetti.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found a soybean lasagna. So, Catherine got creative and made a meatless version of lasagna that uses a smaller amount of lasagna on the bottom of the dish and substitutes sliced zucchini for the pasta in the other layers. Putting a single layer of pasta on the bottom provides the traditional taste of lasagna and helps the servings come out of the dish better, without the added high-glycemic carbohydrates. We made this lasagna recipe meatless, but you could use a meat sauce if you prefer. Bon appétit!

Mushroom Zucchini Lasagna

Serves four

2 sheets oven-ready lasagna pasta

½ jar (1 1/3 cups) spaghetti or marina sauce (any flavor you prefer)

2-3 oz. fresh baby spinach (2-3 handfuls)

1 8 oz. box sliced mushrooms

2 small zucchinis, sliced into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

12 tbsp. low-fat ricotta cheese

Trim ends of zucchinis until they fit inside a square 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Then slice zucchinis into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons. Place on a plate and salt liberally both sides. Let stand about an hour to draw out the excess moisture. Rinse off salt and pat slices dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Rinse mushrooms and place in a skillet or large saucepan. Using 2 sharp-bladed spatulas, coarsely chop mushrooms in the pan. (Alternately, you could use a knife and cutting board, but Catherine found this method to be quicker.) Sauté mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of water until the mushrooms darken and excess water from the fungi has appeared in the pan. Drain and set aside.

Fit the 2 sheets of pasta in the bottom of a square, 1-1/2 quart baking dish, breaking edges off as necessary so the pasta lays flat in the bottom. Remove pasta and broken pieces from the dish.

Pour 1/3 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of the dish and lay the pasta sheets and broken pieces on top.

On top of this base, layer 1/3 cup pasta sauce, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup mushrooms, a handful of spinach, torn into small pieces, and four tablespoons of ricotta cheese (dotted over the top of the spinach), and enough zucchini slices to cover the ingredients. Spread the ingredients so they are evenly layered. Repeat layers to the depth the dish allows, ending with a layer of zucchini, sauce, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Bake 45 minutes.

Let stand and couple of minutes before cutting. Catherine found using a chef’s knife to cut the layers works best to cut through the zucchini without destroying the layers. Serve with a fresh salad and warm, Italian garlic bread.

Note: We went light on the cheeses, which gave each square of lasagna about 1 serving each of the cheeses. If you like a heavier cheese taste, add more cheese on each layer.

Serve the lasagna with a fresh green salad and some yummy Italian bread and you have a complete meal.

After the dishes are done and you’re ready to relax, download Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) and take a trip back to Woodstock 1969 with our heroine Rose and her Italian stallion Dakota. To whet your appetite, here’s a peek at Rose and Dakota’s first meeting. Enjoy!

As they made their way to the festival site, Rose and her friends grooved to the music coming from the stage.

When they reached the makeshift bridge over the road, someone yelled, “Hey beautiful! You with the red hair.”

She looked around to see if there was anyone else with red hair. Then she glanced up and spotted two guys, one blond and the other dark-haired, leaning over the side of the bridge.

“Yeah, you,” the blond called out as he caught her gaze.

Willow halted beside her. “He’s cute. How about him?”

Rose looked away, her gaze landing on the other guy.

He jabbed his companion in the ribs. “Quit trying to pick up every girl you see.” Then he leaned farther over the rail. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s high.”

“So she’s not beautiful?” Willow yelled to the hippie.

She poked her friend. “Stop it, Willow, you’re making a scene.” In spite of her protest, her gaze remained on the dark-haired guy.

He rested his elbows on the rail and stared back at her. The intensity of his expression shot heat into her belly.

“I didn’t say that, just that she shouldn’t pay attention to him.” He flapped a hand at his blond buddy, then tapped his own chest with his thumb several times as if to say, ‘Choose me!’

Does he want me to pay attention to him? Her heart thumped in rhythm to his jabbing thumb.

“Take that one,” Willow whispered. “He’s the real cutie.”

Before she could respond, the crowd pushed them forward. When they reached the other side of the bridge, she looked back, searching for the dark-haired hippie, but the spot where he’d stood was empty.

Just my luck. I see someone who’s intriguing and he disappears.

With a sigh, she continued the trek to the festival grounds.

C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Plus their paranormal series titled The Turning Stone Chronicles.

They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Join them on social media:

Website

Soul Mate Publishing

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

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A PERFECT SUMMER MEAL

July 14, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Vonnie Hughes

The perfect lunch or dinner that’s great for leftover vegetables. The extra bonus – it’s easy to make. Let your imagination rule on the veggies. Onion, broccoli, mushroom, cauliflower, courgettes, capsicums, corn kernels…whatever you have on hand tastes amazing in this recipe. Chopped, cooked bacon or a small can of salmon are welcome additions.

SELF-CRUSTING QUICHE

3 tbsp. butter

3 medium eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

Pepper to taste

2.5 cups mixed vegetables, chopped

1 cup grated cheese with a snappy flavor for oomph

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).

Coat an ovenproof dish large enough to hold all ingredients with butter. Set aside.

Mix eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.

Stir in vegetables and bacon or salmon if you’re using them.

Blend in cheese.

Pour mixture into a greased dish.

Bake 40 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Here’s a little from Vonnie’s Regency romance to perk your interest.

 

Matthew Monfort has two excellent reasons for loathing members of the ton, but thanks to his father’s machinations, he finds himself inveigled into offering for Lady Verity Tristan.  Well, it’s time he married and she’s…well, she’s different; in fact, she’s quite delightful…and intelligent…and sweet… but she needn’t think she’s going to win him over.

 

AMAZON BUY LINK

 

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

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