Saturday, August 29, 2015

End of summer is coming and cookie recipe!

Hello, everybody! I hope your summer is going well! We've been traveling, cooking, sleeping in late, writing, eating, gardening... You know, the best parts of summer! So, a friend gave me a delicious recipe for peanut butter and jelly cookies. I make peanut butter cookies about every three years so i was little skeptical on how great these could be. But she promised they weren't too hard, weren't too sweet, and were perfect right out of the oven. So, we had to try!
(We used our little cookie press on a few. So cute!)
 1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1.2 cups flour

 Blend the eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, and peanut butter together. Mix the dry ingredients together, then add to the egg and sugar mixture. Form balls and bake at 350F for six to eight minutes. Any longer and they start to get crispy, which is fine if you want crispy... but these are supposed to be like a PB&J sandwich. 
 When the cookies have cooled a little but are still warm, fill the indentations with jam or jelly. We used our strawberry jelly (from a previous post!). 
 The smelled amazing and tasted even better! A real treat!
 The morning glory in our garden is blooming. I had no idea this was considered a weed in some places! Here, we try to get the seeds started inside in the spring and then carefully transplant them outside. Facebook friends told me they take over the property in some regions and have to be ripped out! 
 And our seedless champagne grapes are ready. Maybe I already posted about it. Well, they're super yummy and I can't post about them enough. Grape season is so short here that we revel in it while it lasts.
 My neighbors zinnias! Really, they just had to be on the post. Too pretty not to share!
 And my polydactyl kitty is helping me with my new book. He's a great content editor! He goes to sleep if it's too boring...
And have to share this funny shot of our other kitty. He was yawning, I swear, but it looks like he's yelling, "M-om! He's TOUCHING ME!" 
I hope everyone has a wonderful last weekend in August! I can't believe it's almost September already!! Summer has just flown by! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Super catch up post... and a new release coming soon!

Hello, everybody! I'm recently back from a vacation and I was so excited to go camping. No, I don't usually love camping but I've fallen in love with cast iron cooking and I was dying to try some recipes.  Let's just say nobody starved but we sure were glad to get back to civilization. I don't mean the picture below. That's where we live. 
Sort of civilized.
                                          Sort of not when it's 106 and above! (Someone asked me if this was real temp or heat index. I don't know what that means. It's the temperature. I guess in some areas the temperature isn't really the temperature but much hotter? Yuck. I'll stick with our 100-110F in the summer.)
 I love vacations. I really do. I like planning and plotting and packing and getting the kids all prepped with studying the sights we'll see. But then by the time we come home, we all feel like this.
 So, after a good twelve hours (no, it doesn't really take that long but we wandered a bit to get there  and small people have small bladders, so lots of stops) we made it to our first destination, a campground on the coast, way down south, nearly to California. (I love these shoes. My friend sent them to me from Texas because they're teal. ha! My favorite color.)
I already talked about the yurt, so here is our cast iron cooking action. Waffles, a sandwich, a pan heating for hashbrowns, and a hot dog. (Can't remember who was eating a hot dog for breakfast. Probably the picky eater of the bunch.) The kids loved cooking their own food but it did require a lot of supervision. We didn't want anyone branded.
My mom has a home on the coast a few hours from there and she brought us this cast iron oven and these berries from their property. YUMMY. So glad they weren't in Arizona! But like us, with the summer heat you look for cooler climes. (This shot is of blueberries, marionberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a gold raspberry hybrid.)
And that recipe worked! It was absolutely delicious! Berry buckle for the win.
We spent the first week in the camp, on Eel Lake, with the Dunes in the other direction. There's a whole long story about getting lost there at sunset but I won't bore you with that.
( I had my own pictures but... well... that story is coming up)
Let me just say... never separate! Even if a five year old is discovered to be holding only one of his shoes and you let the faster people walk ahead because the five year old holding your hand is slower and it's really lovely with the frogs croaking and the sun setting and the breeze on your sunburn. There's a reason people die in the Sahara and a reason you do not take three hours to stop wandering and start yelling.  Enough said. Moving on!
After that, I told my husband I needed a day to sit on the beach and drink coffee while the kids played in the tide pools. So I did. He, of course, scaled the cliffs and I pretended not to notice (and worry).
Living in the land of tumbleweeds and 100F temps, I forgot how normal it is to see rhododendrons and other water-loving plants just growing naturally. And moss. And ferns. It was a feast for the eyes. Ahhhh.
Our town has a few big trees in the main park. But in the forest they're everywhere. The kids get a kick out of them every time.
Speaking of flora, we had to stop at the Darlingtonia Preserve. (That link is the wiki article. So interesting.) My kids think I'm crazy but I keep insisting these carnivorous cobra lilies are cool. I mean, giant pitcher plants that are only found in a few places in the world? YES, we have to stop and look! Also, they remind me of Little Shop of Horrors, so they make me smile.
We tried to throw in a few kids but they fought back.
So, we finally said good bye to the yurt (some of us were more happy than others) and headed up the coast to Florence. There's a seafood chain there called Mo's.
It's loud, crowded and full of tourists. And we love it.
Remember we'd been living off  s'mores and grilled cheese sandwiches...
Slumgullion was like food from heaven. We were ALL SO HAPPY not to be camping. OK, maybe the little kids would have preferred marshmallows for lunch but the rest of us were thrilled.
There are a lot of commercial fisherman, right alongside some funny people who dock their pirate boats. I've never wanted a pirate ship, but it's apparently a thing. We met the sweetest older couple who sold their home after retirement and... built a pirate ship to sail up and down the coast. Funny!
Once we made it to the beach house, we hit the farmer's markets. Wow, these onions are much bigger than ours. But not as sweet.
I was loving civilization but my hair wasn't loving the humidity. Good thing I brought my hairdressers! They're spendy, but worth it.
We met up with some friends and they took us crabbing. We caught lots of crabs... and none were big enough to keep. Which was probably good since I don't think my kids would have eaten them anyway. but it was super fun and ended with ice cream!
At low tide we walked down and gathered mussels for paella (recipe in the link, it's delicious!) We also found a purple starfish! The last few years there haven't been any starfish because of a virus that swept the coast so we were thrilled to see them on the rocks!
We also steamed at enjoyed them straight, but you can imagine a few of the kids preferred hot dogs. And that was fine as long as I didn't have to build a fire! (Unless it was on the beach. Then I was up for it.)

We also went clamming but I don't have any pictures of that because at this point, I fell into Yaquina Bay. It wasn't too bad. Nice and warm. I decided to go with it and swim toward the bank until I realized MY PHONE was in my pocket. Ah well... Luckily I'd been sending pictures to a private album on facebook so I had a few. 

We thought we might travel up north even farther after the week in the beach house but I was tired. Actually, I wanted to come home after two days. I missed my desk, my coffee just the way I like it, my kitchen. I've become a homebody. Even though the yurt was doable and the beach house (we've been there before) was lovely.... it's just not home. The kids are already planning the next trip (maybe to Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Calgary?) but I'm content in my little town... even if it is 90F at 8AM. 
 Until next time!

My newest release, These Sheltering Walls!

This is my newest book.... 

Coming July 30th, Only Through Love!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Upside Down Pecan-Apple Pie straight out of my new book! AND GIVEAWAY!

Hello, everybody! I know the rafflecopter is still going for the $25 Amazon gift card but I wanted to share this fun recipe. 
So, when I was researching my new series set in Natchitoches, Louisiana, I needed a good cookbook. I asked my facebook friends and apparently this is THE cookbook for Louisiana. It's like the JOY OF COOKING down there. Everybody's got one, usually handed down. It was originally published in the 1950's and now you can buy it on Amazon. Love that!                                          
Poor me, I had SO MUCH RESEARCH to do. And by research I meant cooking and eating. I decided not to include this recipe in the back of the first book in the series, but it caught my eye and I wanted to try it out. Upside down apple-pecan pie sounds interesting, doesn't it??
(Shameless book plug: The Pepper in the Gumbo which is up for preorder now! I really LOVED writing this book. Sort of You've Got Mail and 84, Charring Cross Road- with lots of Southern cooking and romance!)
 Then this box showed up at my door and I got to hold my latest Austen Takes the South book in my hands!  Isn't she pretty!!!??? Releasing Nov. 11th! I have three of these to give away (my sister will beat me over the head if I don't save one for her and the other is for me). Enter in the rafflecopter at the bottom but first... check out this PIE! I had to celebrate!

Bake at 350F for an hour.
4TBS butter
2/3 brown sugar
2/3 cup pecans
2 unbaked pie crusts
6 cups sliced apples
1 tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 TB flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
 There's Mr. Tin Pie Plate! We've missed you!!
 So combine the brown sugar and the butter and press into the bottom of the pan. This will melt and make a caramel under your pie.
 Press the pecans into the mix and you can make it fancy if you want.
Put the bottom crust over the mix, leaving a few inches over the sides.
 Like so.
 Put in the apple mixture. Mmmmmm....
By the way, these pies (I actually made two) come from the apples from our own trees. But these are special trees. We have a compost pile where we throw veggies and peels and such. My husband noticed a few seedlings had sprouted so he transplanted them into the corner of the yard. I didn't really pay attention to them. I think I noticed them a few times a year. Scrawny branches, tiny little stunted apples, the trees were no taller than my youngest child for years. And then this year, the apples grew BIGGER. I was so surprised! It took seven years for a little seed to give back another apple and even though I'd completely forgotten about those little trees, they were working hard the whole time. I imagine them saying to me now, "How you like THEM apples??" lol
 Put on the top layer an pinch closed the edge. This was a very juicy pie (and actually set off the fire alarm twice) so be sure to set something underneath to catch the drips.
 OK, here's the first pie and it smells AMAZING. But I'm not completely sold on it yet.
I'm going to attempt to turn over the pie into this deep dish. The entire family has crowded around to watch. (Mostly because I set off the fire alarm and they're huddled together for warmth while the smoke leaves the house.)
 Here's the second pie and although it doesn't look fantastically pretty, there's nothing like hot aple pie right from the oven.
 OK. It actually wasn't that hard to flip. I'm wondering if the caramel burned. I'm skeptical.
 Moment of truth, with lots of caramel sauce drizzled on it.
And some whipped topping. The verdict was..... *drum roll* The family declares this THE BEST PIE EVER.
And since I usually post a kid pic but they were all outside playing by the time I sat down to write this, I'll put this one here...
My oldest always reads to the younger kids every night and this photo really made me laugh. At first I thought of Cerberus, the three headed dog. And then someone said it looked like Huginn and Muninn, the Norse mythological crows that perched on Odin's shoulders. Lol.
 So there you go! I hope you're all having a wonderful and productive fall!

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