Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tasty Tuesday Chocolate Cookies!

Many, many moons ago when my sons were very young, I joined a play group so my kids wouldn't grow up out here in the middle of nowhere without ever having the chance to play with other children. One of the mothers in the group was Lisa, the wife of the pastor of a local church. Not long after we met Lisa, the ladies of the Women's Ministries from her church began putting together a cookbook, to which I contributed a couple of recipes. After the book was printed, Lisa had a party and served some goodies made from those recipes. She had also made these cookies, which were NOT in the cookbook! After tasting these soft, chewy delights, I demanded the recipe and wrote it down in the back of the dessert section.
Per Sam's request, I made a batch a few days ago. I hadn't made them in years--and there's a good reason for that. If you think chocolate chip cookie dough is good, don't try eating any of this stuff. You'll never bake the cookies if you do!

Chocolate Cookies


1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup nuts (optional)
powdered sugar


Melt the shortening and butter in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, and cocoa and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Chill dough until firm. It will look like a big pot of chocolate fudge. Having said that, I double-dog dare you to make these without eating a big spoonful of the dough. Once you have eaten as much dough as you can hold, roll the remaining dough into balls, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll in powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest Launch! Love Served Hot by Mellanie Szereto!

Please welcome my pal and fellow Sextet member, Mellanie Szereto to the blog! I had the pleasure of critiquing Love Served Hot, and enjoyed the story very much. The only thing lacking was the recipes for the scrumptious dishes served in the story. Today, I get my wish for at least one of them!

Thanks for letting me take over your blog today, Cheryl!

Hi, everybody! Read on to find out how you could win a $10 Amazon gift card!!!

My bio:
When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-seven years, their two children, and two cats. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and PASIC.

Facebook page: Mellanie Szereto

Besides giving everyone a peek at my newest release, Love Served Hot, I’m sharing the recipe for my heroine’s favorite dish. Here’s a hint about why it’s her favorite!

As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef for the new restaurant. She’s interviewed several candidates, but instantly decides on the sexy Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her rotten luck with relationships makes her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s returned home to be near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith, hoping their budding friendship turns out to be more than a flash in the pan.

Buy links:

Plating two modest servings of iron skillet-seared salmon on beds of rice, Flynn added a sprig of fresh dill to each. He dropped a couple handfuls of pasta into the pot of boiling water and gave it a stir. The timer in his head set itself, the ticks so automatic he no longer had to check his watch.
He returned to the dining room to set a dish at Ms. Montgomery’s place, reciting the information she’d likely want to know. “Entrée number one. Dilled Salmon with Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf. High in Omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbs, and iron. Moderate sodium content. Most vegetables and fresh mushrooms can be substituted for the spinach. And it’ll be served with a variety of sides.”
The aroma rising from the table made his stomach rumble. Taking the seat across from her, he waited for her to taste the offering.
She lifted the fork to her lips. Several moments passed with no indication of her like or dislike of the fish. The only movement of her face was an occasional blink and rhythmic chewing.
A bite of rice followed, her reaction as stiff and bland as the first one. He might’ve expected unresponsive behavior from a food critic, but not from a potential employer.
Unable to restrain his need to know if the food warranted the lack of emotion, he flaked off a piece of salmon and settled it on his tongue. The texture was perfect—not tough or chewy. A mix of mild fish flavor, salt, black pepper, and freshly chopped dill spread over his taste buds. It tasted exactly the way it had the thousands of times he’d prepared it.
Could the rice be the problem?
He slid the fork under the grains, certain he had the right proportion of spinach to rice. Leaning over the plate, he lifted the bite to his mouth. The rice was firm but not crunchy, the spinach and seasonings adding enough hint of flavor to complement the earthy tone of the dish.
Taking a peek at his dining partner, he finished chewing. He’d no more than swallowed when she shuddered and closed her eyes. They opened again, staring straight at him with a slightly glassy look as she pulled in a shaky breath.
Please don’t tell me she’s allergic to—
“Oh my.” She fanned her fingers at her face as she squirmed in her seat.
No cayenne. No hot pepper sauce. No peppers, period—not even black in the rice—and only the lightest dusting of freshly cracked on the fish.
Sifting through the ingredients in his mind didn’t help identify the culprit. “Are you all right?”
Her tight smile didn’t reassure him. She lifted her napkin to dab at her lips, not quite hiding her quick exhale. “Um, yes. I’m fine. Good. Shall we try the next?”
Wasn’t she going to comment on the entrée? Or had she decided to wait until she’d completed the taste testing to evaluate the samples?
“Good” could’ve referred to the dish, couldn’t it?
Pushing up from his chair, he paused before setting off for the kitchen again. The dish had been better than good, and he shouldn’t put too much stock in her response. Confidence in his cooking skills had never been an issue for him.
Drain and dish up the pasta.
Ladle the sauce.
Position the port.
He was on his way in less than two minutes.
His judge slid her now-empty plate to the side and drained her glass.
She had to have inhaled the rest of her salmon and rice while he was gone. That fact alone eliminated the possibility of a known allergy to the fish.
Her gaze seemed glued to the dishes in his grasp. “This must be entrée number two. Campanelle and Portabellas with Roma Tomato Sauce.”
Flynn bit the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning aloud as he placed the pasta dish between her utensils. Her husky tone suggested she might prefer food to sex. A combination of the two would certainly be interesting.
Just what I need—to lose this gig before I get it. Focus, damn it!
He’d already risked making a bad impression with the stupid stocking comment, no matter how sexy her legs were. Adjusting the front of his chef’s coat to hide his body’s reaction to her voice, he refilled her glass and then rounded the table to sit opposite her again.
“Thanks.” This time she hesitated a couple seconds before picking up her fork and knife. “Tell me more about the vegetarian selection.”
Curious to see if her expression became an unreadable mask, he launched into a full description. “The pasta is made from chickpea flour instead of semolina. Higher protein, fewer carbs. Whole wheat or whole grain is another possibility, but I’d add a protein to the sauce to make up the difference. The ports are seared in olive oil for good fats. Freshly grated Parmesan for vegetarian, or without for vegan.”
She held her loaded fork near her chin. “Chickpea pasta sounds fairly expensive and not readily available. What protein options would you use?”
“Cannellini works really well. Marinated and sautéed tofu is another. Black beans.”
She gave a curt nod. The ruffled edge of the sauce-covered campanelle disappeared between her teeth. She looked more thoughtful than with the first entrée, her tongue sneaking out to lick her lips. Her fork clinked against the porcelain plate, and he held his breath for her verdict.
Her sudden gasp as she grabbed the edge of the table didn’t bode well. The small squeak probably meant she was in pain, and her fingertips turned white from her death grip.
Stumbling out of his seat, he rushed to her side. “You’re not all right. I’m not a doctor, but I’d guess acute appendicitis. Or maybe a really bad case of acid reflux.”
She shook her head, sending her strawberry-blonde ponytail swinging back and forth. “Fine. I’m fine. Really. I just, um, bit my tongue.” Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm as she straightened in her seat. “You’re hired. Can you start work on Monday?”

Campanelle and Portabellas with Roma Tomato Sauce

1 lb. campanelle pasta
12 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar (more or less, to taste)
1 cup Marsala (I prefer Taylor New York) or burgundy wine
6 oz. sliced portabella mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan

To peel tomatoes: Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, plunging into a bowl of ice water. Let stand 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes from ice water. Skin should peel away easily.

Sauce: In a medium saucepan combine chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, and sugar. Cook over medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Add Marsala. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer at least 20 minutes.

Pasta: Prepare campanelle according to package directions—ten minutes cook time for al dente.

Sautéed Portabellas: Preheat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Carefully lay mushroom slices flat in pan. Cook until lightly browned. Turn over to brown second side. Remove to warm plate.

Assemble: Place a bed of campanelle on plate. Top with sauce and a mushroom slice. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.

Options: Add cannellini, black beans, or sautéed tofu to the sauce with the Marsala.

Enjoy—the book and the recipe! Leave a comment with the name of your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Goodies!

These are some recipes I've posted before, but somehow they got lost in the reboot of the blog.

This first recipe was invented by a wonderful lady named Gina Scalera who used to work at the Joseph-Beth Bookstore in Lexington. She died a couple of years ago, but when she was running the romance department at the store, she had a reading group. Each month they would meet to discuss a book, and Slave was the book of the month for November 2008. She would make up a new cookie recipe for each book, and this is the kind she made for Cat!


-2 cups unbleached Flour
-1 tsp. Baking Powder
-pinch of salt
-1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
-2/3 cup unsalted Butter, softened
-2 cups firmly packed Brown Sugar
-2 lg. Eggs
-2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
-1 cup M&M Candies

Preheat oven to 350 (325 if using a glass baking pan). Lightly grease a 13"x9" baking pan.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large bowl cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Mix in the vanilla. Gently mix in the dry ingredients, until well combined. Stir in the M&M's.
Spread evenly into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars.
Yield: 3-4 dozen, depending on size of bar. Can be frozen.

While I'm at it, I might as well give away all my secrets. This next recipe is one I got from my grandmother. Heaven knows where she found it, but it's one of those things that everyone seems to like. I've tasted several different variations and have tried substituting other ingredients, but, trust me, the original is best!

1 pkg Ore-Ida hash brown patties (27 oz) thawed and crumbled up (You can use the bag of shredded hash browns, but it isn't as good.)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup chopped onion
1 can Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mix all together and spread in greased 9 X 13 pan
Mix one stick melted butter with 1 ½ cups of crushed cornflakes and spread over the top.
Bake @ 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Merry Christmas!