Check out my fiction - http://www.jaletac.com
Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Sticky Buns

I'm cold. It's supposed to start snowing again. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of winter. I'm ready for spring. That has nothing to do with the recipe other than these fun treats are warm and gooey and so satisfying.

Tip for cleaning the pan: After you turn the sticky buns out, fill the pan with hot water and let it soak for a while. The sugar mixture should wipe right out.

Quick Sticky Buns

1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. pecan pieces
1 large tube pop biscuits (refrigerated tube biscuits, whatever kind you like)

Heat oven to 375°. Place butter in a 9 inch round pan. Put in the oven for 3-4 minutes, just until it melts. Sprinkle the butter with brown sugar and pecan pieces. Arrange biscuits on top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until biscuits are done. Turn upside down onto a plate, so the sticky side is up. Let cool a few minutes before eating, the sugar mixture is very hot.

Not-so-quick Sticky Buns (these take a lot longer but are much tastier)

1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. pecan pieces
1/2 recipe of Basic Bread (through step 5) or your favorite bread dough recipe
(use the other half for a loaf or double the sticky bun recipe)

Melt butter and pour into a 9x13 baking pan. Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans over the butter. Pinch off golf ball size portions of the bread dough. Roll lightly, then place on top of the butter/sugar/pecan mixture in the pan. When you have all the bread dough shaped into rolls and on top of the mixture, cover and let it rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 375° for 15 - 20 minutes, until bread is lightly browned and done. Turn pan upside down on a serving tray so the sticky side is up. Remove pan and serve.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Paying it Forward

"Paying it Forward" has become quite the buzzword lately. It's a great concept, especially for writers. So much of the time we have the mindset, "If I win then you have to lose." We're wired to be competitive, but that philosophy really only applies to sports, games, and contests. Life isn't really any of those. Paying it forward is giving the help you received to those who need it now. It's a way to pay back those who helped you.

I spent the weekend at Life, the Universe, & Everything, a writing conference that focuses primarily on science fiction, fantasy, and horror. What a fabulous learning experience. I've attended every year since 1998. Every year I learn something new. What impressed me most this year were the well-known authors willing to donate a weekend to share their expertise. Talk about paying it forward. Guests included Tracy Hickman, James Dashner, Dan Wells, Dave Wolverton/David Farland, Jessica Day George, Tristi Pinkston, Bree Despain, Michael Collings, and other nationally known and very successful authors as well as a host of us lesser known and new authors. None of them were paid to come. All of them were very willing to share their experiences and expertise. Of course the conference would not work if it were all successful authors. Many who came are those struggling to figure out how to write and how to get published. It was definitely a win-win situation for all involved.

I have some belated thanks to give to those who helped me.

To Paul Genesse, thanks for the three hour discussion at CONduit where you shared your journey to publication and explained things to me I didn't know I needed to know. And thank you for your continued friendship. It means a lot.

To Newton Ewell, artist extraordinaire, thank you for your pep talk about being true to my vision. To paraphrase, writing is an art form. There is no right way to create a story. Write what's in your heart, but don't forget to learn your medium and the craft of writing. And don't let anyone tell you that you're doing it wrong, because it's your vision and your story. Stay true to yourself and everything else will follow. Eventually.

To all the wonderful people I met at LTUE, thanks for a great weekend. And thanks for re-affirming that writing can be a win-win for everyone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Island Chicken

The post is late. This week has been crazy at work and at home. Tuesday night, our Cub Scout Pack had their Blue & Gold Banquet. Guess who was in charge of the food? That's right. Me.

We took our Cubs and their families on a cruise. They were hit by a hurricane and stranded on a deserted island. The natives prepared a great feast for them. I love Cub Scouts. You can have so much fun with them and their imaginations.

My Island Chicken got rave reviews, so I thought I'd share the recipe. Fast and easy, like always. Serve it with rice and a green salad for a full meal.

Island Chicken

2 lbs boneless chicken
1 c. crushed pineapple
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. ginger

Mix everything except chicken to make a sauce.

Oven version: Put chicken in a baking dish. Pour sauce mix over and bake at 350° for 35-50 minutes until the chicken is done.

Crockpot version: Put chicken in a 3 - 4 quart crockpot, pour sauce over the top. Cook on low for 4 - 5 hours or on high for 2 - 3 hours, until chicken is done.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Come comment on my interview!

I've got an interview up on Notes from an Alien. He's a nice guy and it's a fun interview and if you read the comments, I've left a special surprise there.

So come on over and visit. I'd love to see you there!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Post

This is late. I've spent too long at work and doing the mom thing today and I really wanted to spend time to write a really great post. You see, it's my 25th anniversary today. I've been married to the same man for the last 25 years. I really hope we make it another 25.

Valentine's Day is all about romance, the heart-pounding chocolate'n'flowers kind of romance. Hollywood romance where fireworks go off when you kiss. Or is it? True romance is more than kissing, more than expensive gifts, more than butterflies in your belly when you hold hands. True romance lasts through sleepless nights and cleaning up kid vomit four times in the middle of the night and changing diapers for nineteen straight years. True romance sees past the extra weight and wrinkles to the soul inside. True romance is part commitment, part stubbornness, part friendship, and yes, part butterflies-in-the-belly. True romance is in it for the long haul, not just until the fireworks are over.

Marriage is tough. It requires a lot of work and a lot of dedication. But it's worth the struggle and the effort. It's worth the tears and trials. I trust my husband implicitly. He's my sweetheart and my best friend. He's my support when no one else will listen or understand. He's not perfect, but then, neither am I.

The most romantic thing he ever said to me? I have to set this one up.

Picture a chilly early spring evening. The kids are finally in bed, all five of them. I'm eight months pregnant and feeling huge. I'm dressed in my ratty old flannel granny gown. He looks at me as I'm brushing my teeth and says, "Do you know how beautiful you are?" My first response was to tell him to put his glasses back on, but I stifled it in time. He meant every word and it touched me more than a dozen roses or poetry or even ten pounds of chocolate. He makes me feel beautiful, even when the world tells me I'm not.

So, to my valentine today, may we spend another twenty-five years together. And may we find happiness in each one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Easy Lasagna and Traditional German Pork Chops

Thanks to @KDSarge on Twitter, I have recipe suggestions. No pictures, because I'm imagining these in my head. Maybe I'll cook the lasagna for dinner tonight, but the pork chops will have to wait until I've gone shopping again. And don't cook them both for the same meal. Sauerkraut and lasagna just don't mix.

This time of year, when spring is still not here and the cold is set in my bones, I want comfort food, the kind that warms heart, soul, and body. These recipes fit the bill.

With our milk allergies, I'll be doing a pot of dairy-free lasagna (almost not worth doing, because the cheese is the best part) and one with goat cheese (which I can't eat, it makes me sicker than cow cheese). I'll have to cook pork chops for Valentine's Day.

Easy Lasagna

1 12 oz package elbow macaroni or spirals
1 large can spaghetti sauce, whatever flavor and brand you prefer
1 lb. hamburger, browned and drained (or use Italian sausage or ground turkey or whatever meat you want)
2 c. steamed cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 c. shredded mozarella
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
Any or all of the following:
1 c. chopped onion, sauteed
1 c. chopped bell pepper
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 c. olives
1 c. chopped zucchini
1 c. frozen spinach, thawed and drained

Cook macaroni according to package directions for al dente (slightly undercooked). Drain.

Add sauce, meat, cauliflower, half the cheese, and any extras you want to add. Stir gently until mixed. Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the mozarella and the parmesan. Bake at 350° until hot and cheese is melted. Serve with green salad and garlic bread.

Traditional German Pork Chops (great with German Potato Salad and steamed veggies)

6 thick cut pork chops (for 6 people)
1 T. oil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 t. rubbed sage
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 c. thinly sliced onion
2 c. sauerkraut (find a good refrigerated bottled brand. Don't use canned)
1 large granny smith or other tart apple, cored and thinly sliced

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add pork chops. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Reduce heat to medium. Remove pork chops, set aside. Add onions and stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes until soft. Add pork chops back to pan. Sprinkle pork chops with salt, pepper, sage, and paprika. Spread sauerkraut over chops. Add apples. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until pork is completely done, about 20 - 30 minutes. (Cut one open and make sure the center is not pink. If they have bones, check near the bone.)

Serve with extra sauerkraut and brown mustard.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Author Interview - Penny Ehrenkranz

Today, I'd like to welcome author Penny Ehrenkranz to my blog. This is part of a blog tour for her, so check out the other stops listed at the end if you'd like to find out more. She has also offered a free short story to one lucky commenter, so stop by and say hello.

How can we find you? Website, blog, Facebook, Twitter?

http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.yolasite.com
http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/penny.ehrenkranz
http://twitter.com/ pennyehrenkranz

What do you currently have in print and where can we find them?

A Past and A Future
http://www.genremall.com/anthologiesr.htm#pastfuture

Ghost for Rent
http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/b8656/?si=0
http://tinyurl.com/27puzze

Dragon Sight
http://www.genremall.com/fictionr.htm#dragonsight

What genre do you write?
I mostly enjoy writing fantasy and soft science fiction, although I also write romantic fiction as well and many of my fantasy and sci fi stories weave relationships into them. I write for both adults and children and find I enjoy variety in what I write.  I’ve dabbled into light horror, paranormal, and mainstream fiction as well. In addition, I do write non-fiction on the themes of writing help, teen self-help, and parenting tips. 

Do you have cats or other pets? Why or why not?
We currently have two small dogs—LhasaPoos, and three cats.  This is the least amount of animals we’ve ever had. This is also the first time we’ve only had small dogs. We have always had big dogs, but as we’ve aged, we found we couldn’t lift the big guys up to carry them outside when they were ill. These little ones are much more portable. Our cat population has dwindled as the little ones have aged and we haven’t replaced anyone. I love having animals around me and feel they are part of the family.  I can’t imagine living without animals in my life.  They bring me comfort, entertainment, and pleasure.

What inspires your stories?
My stories are usually sparked by something I’ve read or a story someone has told me.  I’ll read something and say to myself, “what if…” and the character or story is off and running.

How do you like your romance, sweet or spicy? Or do you like romance?
I prefer my romance sweet, not spicy. I don’t read a lot of pure romance, but as I said above, I do write some and also will include relationships in my stories. I find it difficult to write a story without some type of physical interaction between the characters and most often I pair a hero and heroine together, although not always.

What is your current WIP?
Right now, I’m between projects, but I do have several manuscripts under contract which will be published between now and 2015.

For adults and young adults:
Love Delivery, (contemporary romance) coming August, 2011
Lady in Waiting, (historical romance) coming November, 2011
https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2

For preschool and middle grade:
Funny Dog (picture book), coming May, 2012
Ghost for Lunch (middle grade paranormal), coming September, 2013
Many Colored Coats (picture book), coming October, 2014
Boo's Bad Day (picture book), coming June, 2015
http://4RVpublishingllc.com/Childrens_Books.html

That's quite the list. Congratulations! What hobbies do you have that you want to share?
Besides writing , I love to read, garden, crochet, walk and do water aerobics for exercise, and spend time with my family and pets.

We'll have to swap crochet patterns sometime. Did you always want to be an author? Who inspired you?
Ever since grade school, I knew I wanted to be a writer.  I used to write stories, illustrate, and bind them as entertainment for myself. When I wasn’t writing stories, I was writing letters to my cousins and pen pals. I think my dad was my first inspiration. I remember him making up bedtime stories for my brother and me.  He died when I was ten, but I believe he is the one who instilled in me the desire to tell stories.

What are your favorite movies, tv shows, or books to read? Is there one that you could watch/read over and over without ever tiring of it?
For some reason, my favorite t.v. shows tend to get canceled.  I loved Firefly, Farscape, Heroes, and Dresden Files…all of which were canceled.  Currently, I enjoy watching Merlin, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, Lie to Me, Dr. Who, and Stargate Universe.  Movies are mostly fantasy or sci-fi such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, The Last Airbender, all the Star Trek movies, Dune, and of course, all the Star Wars movies. Favorite books are, again, primarily fantasy.  I love Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Devon Monk, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

I tend not to watch movies or read books a second time. There is just too much out there and not enough time.  I think if there was ever a time I would re-read a book, it would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

What characters are your favorites from your books?
My favorite character in A Past and A Future is Ashley of Ashland.  He’s not a swashbuckling hero, but just a soft, gentle guy who is in love with his childhood sweetheart.  He bumbles through his adventures but is honest and true.  He is your everyday kind of hero. I also really like Wendy, my MC from Ghost for Rent and Ghost for Lunch. She’s spunky, smart, and curious about the world.  She’s very independent and knows her own mind.

From any work of fiction?
I think my favorite character of all is Gandalf from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am enamored by wizards in general.  That said, I also like Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s Dresden File books.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you want to go?
I love to travel, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the world.  I’ve been to several European countries, China, Canada, and most of the United States.  I still want to travel to Hawaii, Russia, Thailand, and a host of other places, including Australia and New Zealand.
I would enjoy seeing Middle Earth, and perhaps a trip down under would take me to a place, scenery-wise, fairly close to that.

I wonder if it would be anything like Peter Jackson envisioned in his movies. If you could time travel, what is one event you would want to see in person, either future or past?
If I could time travel, I would like to be far enough in the future that I could travel aboard a space ship.  I believe it would be an incredible experience to be able to travel out amongst the stars.

I'm with you on the space ship, what an incredible experience that would be. What's your favorite color? Food? Reading spot?
My favorite color is blue.  My favorite foods are ethnic foods such as Indian, Thai, Mexican and traditional (not American) Chinese.  My favorite reading spot is in my Adirondack chair in my garden.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you so much for allowing me to be your guest today and to talk about my work and my recently published short story collection. 
 

Thanks for stopping by, Penny. It's always fun to meet other authors. Good luck with your book release!
Penny's blog tour so far:
http://ciaragold.blogspot.com/ - Feb. 1, Jamie Bevans
http://mgddasef.blogspot.com/ Marva Dasef – Feb 2
http://bit.ly/f2evHV - Feb. 2 - Professor Baker
http://janiefranz.wordpress.com/ Janie Franz – Feb 3
http://heatherkuehl.blogspot.com/ - Feb 4, Heather Kuehl
http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com/ - Feb 5, Barbara Ehrentreu

Remember to comment for your chance to win a free short story!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Cream of Tomato Soup, aka Eyeball Soup

Who doesn't want soup when it's about ten degrees below "It's dang COLD out there!"?

This recipe is my take on a classic soup I learned to make in Jr. High Cooking class. A little tweak here or there, and you could come up with your own signature version.

Why eyeball soup? If you use frozen pearl onions for the chopped onion, they look like eyeballs. It's a Halloween tradition, although I need to figure out how to make it with a milk substitute. I think coconut milk might work, but I haven't tried it yet.

I like the soup better the next day. The flavor mellows after refrigeration. Make it a day or two ahead, then pour it into a crockpot and let it slowly warm up the next day. Plan on about 2 hours on low. Serve this one with croutons, toast, grilled cheese, whatever your favorite side is. I like the soup in a mug just to sip. Creamy and delicious.

Classic Cream of Tomato Soup

1 48 oz can vegetable cocktail juice (tastes better than straight tomato, but you choose)
1/2 c. finely minced onion
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
4 c. milk

Pour vegetable juice in a large pot, I use a 4-qt saucepan. Add onions and pepper. Let simmer over medium heat. Don't boil, just get it nice and hot.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a 2-qt saucepan. When its completely melted, stir in flour. Whisk until smooth. Cook 1 minute until bubbly. Stir in milk a little at a time, whisking smooth between additions. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Make sure the vegetable juice mixture is just barely below boiling. Stir in milk mixture. Whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to low, cook for 1 minute. Taste, add salt if needed. Serve immediately or chill, reheat, and serve another day.

Variations
Stir in whichever of the following sounds good to you. I prefer mine straight.

1/2 t. garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced and added with the onion
dash of cayenne pepper powder, if you like it hot
1 t. dried parsley or 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped, sprinkle on top of each serving
1 T. fresh chives, chopped, sprinkle over the top of each serving
Sour cream, use as a garnish