Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. People either love them or hate them. These tiny little cabbages that grow on stalks surely have to be one of the oddest looking vegetables.

I’ve occasionally bought Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, but by the time they reach most supermarkets, they’re trimmed and ready to go.

When I buy them, I pick through the bin to find small sprouts that are all about the same size. Otherwise the small ones go mushy before the large ones are fully cooked.

After trimming off the stem end and strip off the surface leaves, some cooks cut a shallow cross into the bottom of each sprout. This is supposed to help the sprouts cook more evenly. I’m not convinced it makes that much difference, but I do it anyway.

Here's an easy cheesy recipe for Brussels sprouts that might even tempt your picky eaters!

Brussels Sprouts with Cheese Sauce

2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (or to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
Cook the sprouts in a large pot of boiling water for 7 to 9 minutes or until they’re tender-crisp. Drain them well. You can even put them between two clean kitchen towels and press out any excess water. Set them aside to cool, then slice each sprout in half.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan (medium heat will do) and stir in the flour, nutmeg and S&P. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, and cook till thickened. Stir in the Dijon mustard. Add half the cheese and stir till melted. Add the Brussels sprouts and gently mix them till they’re coated with the cheese sauce.

Put the mixture in a lightly greased, two-quart baking dish. Cover with the remaining cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. To get a nice golden finish, slip it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Makes 8 servings.


Until next time,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially Harlequin American Romance readers. I hope you have a wonderful day filled with family, friends, love, laughter and great food.

Until next time,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Here’s What’s Happening This Week

Today is my blog day with the Harlequin American Romance Authors. My topic is A 100-Mile Holiday. And please be sure to post a comment! I'd love to hear about your holiday plans, and you’ll automatically be entered in our monthly draw for autographed books!

This week the Wet Noodle Posse wraps up writing challenge month.

Monday: Theresa Ragan—"It's Time to Brainstorm!"

Tuesday: Trish Milburn—"Writing While on the Road"

Wednesday: Guest blogger Paul Bigler—"Phoebe on Writing Fast and Furious"

Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday: Q&A

If you’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo, I hope you’ve had a productive month.

Until next time,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Fun—Things That Are Called Bob

A couple of weeks ago on the Rachael Ray Show, she was promoting her new cookbook—Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book—which she affectionately called BOB.

I thought that was cute, and then I remembered that Bob is the name of the clock I have on my desk. Bob the wobble clock.

Actually, Bob is much more than a clock. He’s also a timer, an alarm, a thermometer and a calendar. Five in one. My Bob is blue, but he’s also available in a bunch of other colors.

Being reminded about Bob the clock by BOB the cookbook got me wondering. How many other things are called Bob? Google revealed lots of interesting stuff. Lots.

For example, there’s a big orange bridge in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. You guessed it. The people who live in Nelson call the bridge BOB.

The BOB (Big Old Building) in Grand Rapids, Michigan houses an eclectic-sounding collection of bars and restaurants.

There's a baby stroller called B.O.B, which stands for Baby on Board.

BOB is the airport code for Bora Bora.

BOB also stands for big orange ball—in other words, The Sun.

If you click on this link, you'll find an extensive list of BOB acronyms.

And don’t even get me started on bobsleds, bobby socks and plumb bobs!

If your name is Bob, and maybe even if it isn't, you'll want check The Bob Club, a fun website about Bobs of all kinds.

Do you have any interesting Bobs in your life? I'd love to hear about them!

Until next time,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—More Holiday Side Dishes

Let’s face it—cauliflower is one uninteresting-looking vegetable. But by adding a little color, and flavor, it’s super easy to turn it into a festive holiday side dish.

Cauliflower with Colorful Sauteed Vegetables

1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup grated carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Core the cauliflower and separate it into florets. Bring a pot of water to the boil.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper, celery, carrot and garlic and saute until the vegetables are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful to avoid overcooking it. Drain the cauliflower and add it to the skillet with the other vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley, season with salt and pepper, and gently toss everything together.

I especially like this dish because the cooking time is so short. To make it even easier, I prepare the vegetables earlier in the day and put them in the fridge till I’m ready to prepare it.

Speaking of easy, here’s another delicious way to serve a traditional vegetable.

Roasted Ginger Carrots

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot
6 cups thinly sliced carrots
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Combine the oil, ginger, salt and pepper, and carrots in a mixing bowl. Stir to coat the carrots. Put the mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish. Roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


Until next time,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feel-Good Photos

This photograph, titled "Freunde," is sure to make you go, "aaawww!" Am I right? I so am!

To see more of Tanja A.'s stunning animal photos, drop by her site. This photo is also one of a series posted on Cute Overload. It'll make your day, guaranteed!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday News—Harlequin American Romance

With the holidays fast approaching, I’ll be blogging about my family’s plans for Christmas gift giving. I'll hope you'll check it out on the Harlequin American Romance Authors blog on Monday, November 24.

And in case you missed it, an entertaining (somewhat frightening) interview with American Romance author Marin Thomas was posted on Sunday.

Remember that every time you leave a comment on the HAR blog, you’re automatically entered to win our monthly draw for free books!

Until next time,

Monday, November 17, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

This week the Wet Noodle Posse continues their discussions on Writing Challenges. Here's what's in store for you.

Monday: Dianna Love - "How to Write Past Speed Bumps"

Tuesday: Maureen Hardegree - "Feedback: Five Steps to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff"

Wednesday: Guest blogger April Kihlstrom - "Book in a Week—The Power of Fun"

Thursday: Guest blogger Shirley Karr - "Plotting as a Team"

Friday: Q&A - Readers Ask, Noodlers Answer

Until next time,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Beets, Beautiful Beets

I remember eating beets as a child, but then there seemed to be a long period—several decades long—during which beets fell out of fashion. Hm. Maybe because it was so difficult for our mothers and grandmothers to get the stains out of their white linen tablecloths! But now that beets are known to be chockablock with antioxidants and other good-for-you things, they’re making a comeback.

Here’s an old recipe from my grandmother’s old cook book I told you about last Friday.

Harvard Beets

6 medium-sized beets
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 water
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook and slice the beets.

Mix sugar and cornstarch, add water and vinegar, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add butter and salt. Add beets and bring to the boiling point. Serves 6.

My husband is not a fan of Harvard beets, but I actually like the sweet tanginess of the sauce, maybe because it’s a taste of my childhood. In fact, it’s a little like beet relish. Here’s my grandmother’s beet relish recipe that was handwritten inside the back cover of her cook book.

Beet Relish

6 cups minced, cooked beet
3 cups minced cabbage
2 cups ground horseradish
2 tablespoons salt
1 quart vinegar
2 cups brown sugar (the amount is hard to read, but I think it says 2)
Mix altogether and bottle when cold.

Scant instructions, but I assume everything is cooked after it’s mixed. I also assume that every good housewife in those days was skilled at bottling. Do you suppose she sealed the bottles in a hot water bath? I suspect she did.

Looking for a more modern way to serve beets? Recently I’ve come across several recipes for beet and blue cheese salad. My family doesn’t like blue cheese but they do like feta, so I tried substituting that. Delicious, and so easy to make.

Beet and Feta Salad

1 small head of leafy green lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups diced cooked beets
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds (or chopped pecans or walnuts)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Layer the lettuce, cheese and nuts on four salad plates. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Serves 4. Like I said, delicious!


Until next time,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday News—This Month’s Harlequin American Romances

What's this? An early Christmas present to yourself! November’s Harlequin American Romances are on the shelves today, and these authors have some wonderful holiday reading in store for you. 'Tis the season!

by Laura Marie Altom

by Judy Christenberry

by Tanya Michaels

by Marin Thomas

Marin Thomas is one this month’s featured authors on the Harlequin American Romance Authors’ blog. Her interview will be posted on Sunday, November 16. Please check it out!

Until next time,

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

Here’s what The Posse has in store for you this week:

Monday: Priscilla Kissinger will help with “Setting Personal Goals and Challenges”

Tuesday: Join Trish Milburn for a chat about “Mini Challenges”

Wednesday: “Why Can’t We Stop Procrasting?” Delle Jacobs has some answers.

Thursday: Karen Potter tells us all about the “100 Words for 100 Days Challenge”

Friday: Q&A Day

Happy writing!

Until next time,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Fun—More DIY

My daughter has a part-time job as a bank teller but she’s also a full-time university student so needless to say, she’s on a tight budget. Back in October I showed you how we transformed two old kitchen chairs from shabby to chic.

A month ago she moved her refurbished chairs into a new apartment and needed a table to go with them. She checked out several secondhand stores, but everything she found was too pricey or too dilapidated, or both. So she went online and found a used unfinished pine IKEA table for $20.

My husband used a belt sander to sand a few grease stains from the top. Then we applied a couple of coats of shiny black paint, and voila! A great little dining set for the grand sum of $40!

Don’t you love DIY? You get something uniquely personal and at a fraction of what you’d pay for something brand new and generic.

Until next time,

PS: To jazz up the table, she’s using four La Rochere demi tasse cups and saucers as tealight holders, and a La Rochere carafe/decanter as a vase. All purchased secondhand at a fraction of their original cost. Isn't that a great idea?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Holiday Side Dishes

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, my family loves the old standbys—turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. To go with this traditional fare, I like to try different things with the side dishes. In the leafy green department, brussels sprouts are a fall favorite. My family also loves bright orange vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I like turnips but my kids hate them, although I used to mash some in with the potatoes and they ate them without suspecting a thing. Mom’s can be so devious.

So for the month of November I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes for side dishes. To kick off the month, I’ve decided to post a squash recipe that I’ve modified from my Grandmother McKenzie’s cook book—the Modern Priscilla Cook Book—which has been passed down to me.

The cover is quite shabby and the copyright page is missing, but I believe it was published in the 1920s or maybe the early 1930s.

Let's start with the ingredients for the original recipe for “Squash au Gratin.”

2 cups mashed squash
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt, pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated cheese
buttered crumbs
As you can probably imagine, the recipes in this old cook book use a lot of butter. This recipe also says that if the squash is very dry, “a little cream may be added.”

To make this a little more heart healthy, I substitute olive oil for the melted butter. I also add a grating of nutmeg for flavor, omit the cheese, and replace the buttered crumbs with chopped cashews. But the egg and squash combination still produce the original souffle-like texture that make this side dish so appealing. These are the ingredients I use.

2 cups cooked, mashed squash (butternut is our favorite)
1 tablespoon olive oil
a generous grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
finely chopped cashews
And here are my instructions, modified from the original, as you can tell by my use of a microwave!

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place the two halves cut side down in a shallow, microwaveable dish. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and microwave on High. Cooking time will vary, depending on the type of microwave you have. You can also bake the squash in the oven for half an hour or so.

Let the squash cool, scoop the pulp into a bowl, and mash it. Stir in the olive oil, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Put this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the chopped cashews. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Serves 6.

Both versions are very tasty. If you try them, I hope you enjoy them!

Here are a few more pictures from the cookbook. I love how the stains on some pages lead me to some of my grandmother's favorites, like these fruit cake recipes.

And inside the back cover, handwritten recipes for beet relish and chocolate fudge.

My grandmother died before I was born but I’ve been told many times and by many people that she was an amazing cook, so having her cook book in my collection is truly an honor.

Until next time,

Monday, November 3, 2008

This Week with the Wet Noodle Posse

It’s November, which means NaNoWriMo is back. It also means that this month the Wet Noodle Posse is all about writing challenges. Check it out.

Monday: Writing Challenges (NaNo, BIAW) by Delle Jacobs
Tuesday: Why I Love NaNo by Mary Fechter
Wednesday: Making Non-Writing Time Work for You by Maureen Hardegree
Thursday: Unleash Your Story Challenge by Diane Gaston
Friday: New Releases by Noodlers, Q&A
Happy writing!

Until next time,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Fun—Jack-o’-Lanterns in the Park

How much fun is this?

Someone in my community set out these jack-o’-lanterns in a local park on Hallowe’en night, lined up along logs intended to prevent people from driving off the road and into the rain forest. Altogether, fifty or sixty jack-o’-lanterns lined the roadway and greeted travelers on Hallowe’en night. Is that cool or what?

I have no idea who was responsible for this random act of kindness but I have to say, “Thank you for making me smile!”

Until next time,