Monday, December 23, 2013

David Meredith is in the kitchen

Today we have author David Meredith in the kitchen. He’ll be visiting through Christmas and New Years. He’ll share a few things with us to help with your holiday! Everyone, please, find a seat and let’s get cooking.

Mary: Tell us a bit about your background, your non-writing background. What your hobbies are, what you do to relax, that type of thing.

David: That’s honestly a hard question right now since nearly every spare moment of free time I have is spent promoting The Reflections of Queen Snow White. However, when I do have the time, I enjoy reading, of course. I especially like Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, and Neil Gaiman among others. I am an English teacher and have been for a very long while now with just under a decade of that experience coming in Japan. I am actually quite fluent in Japanese and still study it, though not nearly as religiously as I did when I lived there. I also spend most of my summers coaching swimming.

Mary: I hear from a very good source that you grew up helping out in your dad’s restaurant. How was that? Any fun kitchen stories?

David: I think the phrase which most succinctly describes that experience is “indentured servitude”. My job at his restaurant was basically to do whatever needed to be done that his other (non-related) workers did not want to. Anything nasty or gross generally became my responsibility. It was a buffet so I washed a WHOLE lot of dishes with some toilet scrubbing and other various types of icky mess cleaning thrown in for good measure. All snarky cynicism aside though, it wasn’t a bad experience, really. It was much easier to get my schedule adjusted there than at subsequent employers. I did end up learning a whole lot about cooking AND developed a much greater appreciation for the value of an education. At the end of it all, I was quite certain that I had no desire whatsoever to do hourly restaurant work for the rest of my life, so I’d better go out, work hard and make something of myself.

In terms of fun kitchen stories, an awful lot of the fun of working at the restaurant was really about the diverse personalities of the other people who worked there with me. There was one girl who was a hostess and went through boyfriends like most of us go through pairs of socks. She always had explicitly detailed accounts of her romantic exploits raring and ready to share with everyone (customers included). There was the 400 lbs. (28 and a half stone) cook who had bought a late 70’s Cadillac, painted it baby blue with a paint roller and house paint and then replaced the missing grill with chicken wire that he spray-painted gold. He talked constantly about that car like it was ready for a museum or hotrod magazine. Then there was the middle-aged guy who I washed dishes with regularly who kept the cremated ashes of his dead father in an urn that he carried around with him. I never saw it myself (by the time I got there my dad had already put his foot down about bringing it to the restaurant), but he’d always come in to work with stories about how he and his dad had watched such and such on TV the night before. Or he had taken his dad fishing with him the previous weekend. Or how his dad nearly got blown out of his car because his lid came loose and the windows were down. Once you got past the creepiness factor, they were actually pretty entertaining stories.

There were others too, but those three stood out the most to me. The crazy variety of interesting people made the job a lot more fun - in fact, maybe I should write something based on that.

Mary: What are your favorite holiday traditions?

David: Growing up my grandmother had a big collection of Christmas elves made out of pine cones that she only got out for Christmas. It was always mine and my brother’s job to put them out on the steps with all of their paraphernalia. Then of course, Santa was at the very top. We did it for years well into our early twenties and now that she has passed on, it’s a tradition that I miss.

Other than that, we still do all of the typical American stuff- The big, gaudy tree, lunch with my parents and dinner with my wife’s parents, Santa Claus for the kids on Christmas morning, etc.

Mary: Since you’ll be here in the kitchen over Christmas and New Years do you have a holiday recipe for us? And maybe a party favorite you’d use for a New Years Eve party?

David: One of my favorite dishes for Christmas is:
Roman Green Beans:
1lb of whole fresh green beans
1/2lb bacon (cut in approximately 1-inch by 1-inch squares)
1 table spoon minced garlic
1 package pinenuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste

1. Pinch off green bean stems
2. Blanch green beans in boiling salt water but do not cook through (approx 3-5 minutes after water is boiling)
3. Heat olive oil on HIGH in a medium to large fryingpan or wok
4. Add bacon, minced garlic, and pinenuts - fry until slightly browned but do not crisp bacon, stir constantly.
5. Drain green beans and add to frying pan/wok
6. Add salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste and toss constantly with tongs or spatula for 5-7 minutes (beans should still be slightly crispy)
7. Remove from heat and immediately plate in a serving bowl or on a platter

TIPS: Because the beans must be constantly tossed a wok works best, but you can use a frying pan. Also at high heat it will cook VERY quickly so you must be extra careful not to burn it (pine nuts are especially suseptable to scorching)

I’m not exactly sure what about them makes them “Roman” per se, but they disappear quickly once they’re out on the table.

For New Years, I tend to think hors d'oeuvres. One thing that I really enjoy making for parties is stuffed mushrooms.
Parmesan & Shrimp Stuffed Mushrooms:
one small package of medium to large baby bella or white mushrooms
half a stick of butter (I like butter :) )
1 table spoon olive oil
ring of pre-cooked cocktale shrimp (ratio is approx. 1&1/2 shrimp per mushroom
1/4 cup freshly grated pamesan cheese
1 bunch freshly chopped parsely (minus stems)
salt and pepper

1. Wash mushrooms and remove the stems (this recipe only uses the caps, but in the interest of preventing waste I like to finely chop the stems and add them to something else I'm making like a turkey stuffing for example).
2. Preheat oven to 425
3. Heat butter in a frying pan on medium heat
4. When the butter is fully melted add the mushroom caps - salt and pepper to taste stiring often.
5. Cook mushroom caps thoroughly, but leave slightly firm
6. Remove from heat and arrange on a cookie sheet or baking pan - open side up.
7. Finely chop shrimp and parsely - put in mixing bowl
8. Add olive oil and parmesan cheese - toss thoroughly
9. Spoon mixture into mushroom caps
10. Put in oven until cheese is golden brown (generally 10 minutes or less - check often)
11. Serve (I think they work fine as finger hordevours, but for those worried about greasy fingers you can also serve them with tooth picks in the side of the mushroom caps - the top doesn't work very well)

These are a couple of dishes I really look forward to around Holiday time. I hope you enjoy!

Mary: I hear you have a new book release. Tell us a little bit about your book. Also, please share your Web site, buy links, and any social media links.

David: Right, I have recently released The Reflections of Queen Snow White on Amazon in the Kindle Store:

I’ve been really pleased with the reaction so far (all 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon with more 5s than 4s) and everyone I’ve talked to who has read it so far has had no shortage of nice things to say about it.

Here’s the dust flap blurb:
What happens when "happily ever after" has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancĂ©, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what "happily ever after" really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

It’s an emotional journey and a number of people have told me that it made them cry. If you’re looking for a really uplifting tear-jerker with some serious romance too, this is it. I hope you’ll all buy it for the readers on your Christmas list through Amazon Gifts!

Again it’s available on Amazon here:
Also, please check out and “like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DavidMeredithWriting
Or visit my web page! http://davidmeredithwriting.com
You can also find reviews of The Reflections of Queen Snow White on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18780192-the-reflections-of-queen-snow-white?ac=1
Follow me on Twitter! @davidmeredith2013
I’m also on Linked-In!

Thank you, David, for joining us it’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Harlequin author, Liz Talley, is in the kitchen.

Welcome, author Liz Talley, to the kitchen. No, we are not going to talk books. We’re going to find out a bit about what this southern girl likes to cook. Yes, Liz is from Shreveport Louisiana. Southern holiday food, what better way to celebrate the holidays?

Mary: Now, I’ve got everyone excited about southern cooking, I’m going off in a different direction. Don’t worry I’ll get back to the cooking. First, Liz, do you have any southern holiday traditions that have been passed down through your family, generation to generation?

Liz: First, thanks for inviting me to blog with you today about one of my favorite things – eating. Yeah, books and food are my favorite things to gab about. Truly delicious.

Some of my favorite holiday traditions revolve around time in the kitchen. Every year my mother and I get together to make pecan pralines. We usually do three or four batches, along with a few batches of fudge. My mother’s pralines, handed down for generations, are truly, truly delicious. I savor that time with my mother, gathering up all the ingredients, testing texture and dipping up the candy quick as we can before it sets.

Mary: Do you have any traditions that are just yours?

Liz: Because I have boys who aren’t too interested in playing in the kitchen with me, one of the fun traditions I started is a cookie bake with my nieces. Usually we try for a Sunday afternoon, and we set up the kitchen for baking and decorating Christmas cookies. It’s a fun, messy afternoon I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Another tradition is our Christmas Eve karaoke cocktail party…in jammies. We have the neighbors, friends and family over to sing, drink martinis and usher in Christmas day. We have an awesome time being silly. I call it my Christmas present to myself.

And finally a Christmas day tradition. Every Christmas morning I make Christmas breakfast casserole and we bake cinnamon rolls to eat after we unwrap our gifts. After a leisurely morning, we get dressed and head to the Christmas Love Feast at our church where we serve the homeless Christmas dinner. It’s truly a blessing to be involved in a something that reminds us about what Christmas truly means – celebrating the birth of a savior among “the least of these.” Words really aren’t enough to portray the profound gift of service in His name.

Mary: Can you share with us a traditional southern holiday dish or two?

Liz: Of course. I’m including the recipe for my favorite breakfast casserole, featuring a Southern favorite – grits! And I’m also including the recipe for pecan pralines. Hope you enjoy them and have a fabulous holiday.

Mary: Thank you so much. Of course, I will be trying this/these. I’m sure just because we’re in the kitchen doesn’t mean no one wants to hear about what you write. So, please tell us a bit about what you write and please share your web site, social media etc.

Liz: I write sassy, sexy Southern contemporary romance for Superromance and Amazon StoryFront (How’s that for alliteration?) I have a new novella releasing on January 1st - Hotter in Atlanta – and a February Superromance – His Forever Girl – coming out February 1st. So I’m starting off the new year with some hot stories to warm readers up.  You can find more my visiting me at www.liztalleybooks.com or finding me on Facebook under www.facebook/liztalleybooks.



Jane’s Pralines
3 cups of sugar (divided)
2 Tbsp of butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
½ cup of canned evaporated milk
¼ cup of water
1 cup of chopped pecans

In a small skillet, melt 1 cup of sugar. At the same time in a large pot, bring 2 cups of sugar, ½ cup of milk and 1/4 cup of water to a boil. When the milk mixture reaches boiling, pour the melted sugar in the small skillet into the milk mixture. Stir well, cooking until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (will form a sticky ball when dropped into cold water). Once stage is reached, remove pot from fire and add butter. Allow to cool. When mixture is not longer hot, add vanilla and nuts and beat mixture until the candy is creamy and starts to set up. Dip onto waxed paper by the spoonful.

Yummy!
Cheese Grit Breakfast casserole
1 pound sausage
1 tbsp onion
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup of milk
1 cup of grits cooked in 4 cups of water
1 (6 ounce) box of Jiffy cornbread mix
1 tsp herb seasoning (Mrs. Dash/Spike)
¼ cup of butter, melted
½ lb. of shredded Colby cheese
½ tsp of paprika

Sauté sausage and onions until cooked. Set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs and add milk. Mix in cooked grits, corn muffin mix, seasoning and butter. In a greased baking dish, spread the sausage and onions to cover the bottom. Add the grits/egg mixture and then top with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until middle is set. Allow to stand a few minutes before serving.

Thank you, Liz, for joining us in the Kitchen today, I hope you drop by again soon. Happy holidays!