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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Spicy Shrimp with Mango Rice Salad and Sugar Snap Peas

Just to change things up, I'm starting a new feature on my blog: Authors who Cook. I have lots of writing friends and most of them cook. I cook partly because I have a family to feed but also because I enjoy playing with ingredients and spices and new foods. How fun to find friends who also cook because they enjoy it.

My first guest chef is Michael Scott Miller. Yep, the author I interviewed on Monday. He shares a great recipe for entertaining. It's originally from Bon Appetit, June 2003. Tip of my hat to them for a delicious dish and to Mike for sharing it. I know what I'm doing when I find shrimp and mangoes on sale.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Rice and Mango Salad and Sesame Sugar Snap Peas
(4 servings, not the usual massive quantity my recipes make)

3 T. Oil
2 t. minced fresh ginger
1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
16 uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
3 T. fresh lime juie
2 T. soy sauce
3 c. cooked short-grain brown rice
1 mango, peeled, pitted, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 t. oriental sesame oil
1 t. sesame seeds
4 10-12 inch skewers, metal recommended

Whisk 1 T oil, 1 t. ginger, and crushed red pepper in a bowl. Add shrimp. Toss to coat. Chill 2 hours.

Whisk 2 T oil, 1 t. ginger, lime juice and soy sauce in another bowl. Add rice, mango, and onions. Toss well. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Boil sugar snap peas in salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain and place in medium bowl. Toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Thread 4 shrimp onto each skewer. Grill until just opaque in the center, about 2 minutes per side.

Mound rice & mango salad in center of a plate, surround with peas. Top with shrimp. Serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ladies & Gentlemen: Michael Scott Miller

Today, I welcome Michael Scott Miller to the Far Edge of Normal. I ran into him on BestsellerBound, a great forum for writers, readers, and anyone interested in talking about stories and books and all sorts of random topics.
How can we find you?

Author website:
Twitter:  @MichaelScMiller, although I haven’t really been active on Twitter…yet

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

Ahhh, my favorite question.  Literally in print, you can find Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers, my debut novel, on Amazon. In virtual print, the eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, the Sony Reader store, and a few other locations.

Congratulations! What genre do you write?

I write character-driven fiction, which unfortunately means it tends to land in the overcrowded mainstream/general fiction category.  I’d love to find a slimmer category that it would fit in, but I’ve struggled with that.  If your readers have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Do you have cats or other pets? Why or why not?

Ironically, no.  I say ironically because I grew up in a house that had a dog, a guinea pig, a parakeet, tropical fish, and newts (yes, newts).  I actually would love to have a dog, but with three kids, my house has enough activity right now.  That said, I think we are going to be the foster home for the summer for our elementary school’s guinea pig.  He’s spent a couple weekends with us already.  He’s a cute little black and white thing named Oreo.  I’m actually looking forward to it.

Animals do add a whole new level of activity to a house. Sounds like the guinea pig is cute. What inspires your stories?

I like to get inside the characters and I love when readers tell me they are able to connect with them.  With Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers, the idea came to me when I was riding the train into center city Philadelphia for my job at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.  When I walked through Suburban Station, I would routinely see singers or musicians performing in the corridors there.  My mind first wandered to wondering what would happen if someone gathered together these seemingly destitute folks and molded them into a musical act.  Could they come together with a music industry promoter and be turned into a successful band?  This thought stayed with me trip after trip, until it finally struck me that while I might not have the necessary skill set to form and promote a musical act, the idea might make for an interesting tale.

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?

I generally thrive on variety and have a hard time watching or reading something over and over again, but Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one notable exception.  Douglas Adams was brilliantly clever and funny and could turn a phrase like no one else.

I enjoy reading him, too. If you could meet one historical person for dinner, who would it be and why?

I was discussing this question over dinner with my family, and my eight year old daughter immediately responded with “Ruth Wakefield.”  Feeling momentarily deficient in my knowledge of history, I asked her who that was.  She replied, “The inventor of chocolate chip cookies.”  I mused for a moment and thought, good call.

I'd love to invite her to dinner, too, especially if she brings cookies. If you could travel anywhere, fictional or real, where would you go?

Neverland.  Then I wouldn’t have to grow up

You and me, both. I don't want to grow up. If you could time travel, what is one event you would want to see in person, either future or past?

The first one that comes to mind is Woodstock.  I’m not even that big a fan of 1960’s music (well, outside of being a Deadhead), but it must have been great to be there.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Jaleta.  And I’m looking forward to reading Nexus Point.

Thanks for stopping by, Mike. It's been a pleasure. I'm looking forward to your book.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Fried Noodles

It's still Thursday, I'm still hitting my self-imposed deadline for today. I completely missed my Monday post this week. It's been that kind of week. Don't we all have those kinds of weeks, though? Hugs to anyone out there also suffering from a rough time. You are not alone.

This recipe is an old standby for those times when you don't want something fancy. You want something quick, easy, and comforting.

Fried Noodles

2 c. cooked pasta, cold
1 T. butter or margarine
2 T. grated parmesan or asiago cheese
black pepper or lemon pepper seasoning

Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium to medium high heat until it's bubbly. Add the pasta. Stir it around just a little, until all the noodles are coated with butter. Let it cook for a minute until it's sizzling nice and good. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Let it cook away for a few minutes until the cheese gets melty and the noodles are just a little bit brown and crispy on the bottom. You can give it a couple of quick stirs if you want. If the cheese gets to the bottom, it melts into crispy bits of delicousness.

Scoop the noodles into a bowl and hit them with a shot of black pepper or lemon pepper seasoning. Grab a fork and enjoy.

I would have taken pictures for you, but my son gobbled it down too fast. He loves his noodles.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Dairy-free Cream of Vegetable Soup

Yesterday was a desperate day. My fridge is empty partly because I'm lazy and don't want to go to the store, partly because I've been too busy to go shopping, and partly because the day I set aside for shopping I ended up being sick. Not just sick of work and kids and my house, but lie-on-the-couch-barely-able-to-push-buttons-on-the-remote sick. So when late afternoon rolled around, I knew I'd be in trouble if I didn't get something cooking for dinner. My boys know how to cook, but nothing I had in the house. So I dragged myself off the couch and scrounged through the pantry and freezer to find something to throw together for dinner. Soup is the easiest. It can just bubble away in the pot with no stirring. I can make soups that everyone in my family can eat, despite numerous food allergies. Soups are cheap and use up weird bits of leftover stuff. Soup tastes good. Soup is easy on sick tummies.

So, guess what I made for dinner last night? Soup. How'd you know? I even took a picture.

Not this picture. That's the crocuses blooming in my front yard. And the dead stuff we still haven't cleaned up yet. Yard work isn't very high on my priority list.

This is the soup.  Now that I look at the picture, it doesn't look that appetizing. My son had already started eating it. But it tastes good. Really. Trust me. Better than it looks. It was so good, it's all gone.

Dairy-free Cream of Vegetable Soup

1/2 medium onion, diced
2 T. butter
5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cubed fairly small
2 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 t. smoked paprika (regular will work)
2 bay leaves
1 T. dried parsley
pinch nutmeg
1 12 oz bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 14 oz can coconut milk
6 oz bacon, diced (optional)

Saute onion in butter in large (3-4 quart) saucepan. Add diced potatoes, seasonings, and enough water to cover. Cover pot and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until potatoes are tender. Add frozen vegetables. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes until frozen veggies are cooked. Add coconut milk. Cover and cook on low just until heated through. Add more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, cook bacon until crunchy. Serve as a garnish on the soup.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review - Sink or Swim by Stacy Juba

I am so behind on my reviews. I should have posted this one last month.

Sink or Swim is a fun murder mystery. Stacy has a light touch with the murder part of the story, focusing mostly on Cassidy's personal struggles and unexpected romance. Let me back up just a bit and give you an intro to the story.

Cassidy is a contestant on a reality show, Sink or Swim. She comes in second, losing out to a big jerk. She has to return home with nothing when she was hoping to win the million dollars and use it to open her own fitness gym. But instead, she goes back to work for the local gym as a trainer. Her celebrity status does seem to be opening a few doors, but not enough. Cassidy is frustrated and depressed. And then the jerk turns up murdered. Is someone stalking the contestants on the show? Cassidy gets some creepy fan mail that scares her into going to the police. Her life spirals out of control as the stalker closes in. Who is he, really? And how big of a threat?

How's that for a teaser? I enjoyed the book. I empathized with Cassidy's problems and found myself rooting for her. With a cast of well-drawn characters, Stacy leaves you guessing until the end. Who is the stalker? Cassidy begins to suspect everyone. I followed along, believing and questioning with Cassidy as she tried to build a normal life after her fling with fame on reality tv. If you're looking for a fast and fun read, pick up Sink or Swim. You won't be disappointed.

Find more about Stacy Juba here:
I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Logo design

Logo design is a tricky business. But I enjoy it. I get to play with colors and shapes and shades. I like this one a lot. It's still a work in progress, so it may change. I did it for the great folks over at BestsellerBound. Check them out. Very friendly group of authors and readers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Watercress

I had a major moment yesterday where I was convinced the day was Friday when it was Thursday. So, I spaced posting a recipe to my blog. I hope today makes up for it.

I remember driving up the canyons in the early spring, packed in my parents' white Ford van with my siblings. The trees were bare, the ground still covered with patches of snow. The tag end of winter lingered. But in the streams were patches of emerald green. My dad would pull over and send some brave soul out to pluck a few handfuls of the green plants. Crisp, cold, and slightly peppery, the leaves tasted of spring.

Watercress is available in grocery stores. Look for it in the produce section. It comes bundled with roots attached. Wrap it well in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator for 2-4 days. If it wilts, add a couple tablespoons of cold water to the roots and let it sit for an hour or two. Don't remove the leaves from the roots until just before you serve it.

Watercress tastes similar to radishes except not so sharp. If you've ever had nasturtium leaves, they taste very similar. (My dad loves to garden and experiment. I've grown and eaten vegetables that most people have never heard of. My mom had to figure out how to cook those oddities. I thank them both for giving me adventurous taste buds.)

To use watercress, pick the leaves from the roots, rinse well in cold water. Add it to salads or sandwiches, or just munch on it plain. Watercress is high in vitamin C and other antioxidants.

And it reminds me that winter really is ending and spring is almost here.

For more information, check out the wiki article.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review - The Dragon War Relic by Berin Stephens

"A mysterious explosion, a gold ring, and the fate of the earth and the universe... For Jared Mills, summer has never been more exciting!"

If you want a deep, soul-searching, literary novel, you're looking in the wrong place. If you're looking for a fun read that will keep you entertained, this book definitely fits. High school student Jared Mills and his video-game-playing friend get sucked into galactic politics when Jared is given a ring by a mysterious man who dies in a strange explosion only a few minutes later. With lots of puns, tongue-in-cheek jokes, and action, this book kept me turning pages.

The target audience for this is most likely teenage boys, but anyone who enjoys that kind of silliness and action will enjoy the book. Berin has fun skewering fantasy stereotypes and science fiction cliches all while spinning a story of intrigue, betrayal, misunderstandings, politics, galactic travel, and video games. He even manages to squeeze in a very sweet touch of romance.

So, go check out the book. It comes with a thumbs up from me, my husband, and my teenage son.

For more information on Berin, check out his website.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Hot Citrus Punch

I'm under the weather, again. Urg. This recipe is a great one for a chilly evening. Or when you aren't feeling well.

Hot Citrus Punch

2 c. orange juice
3/4 c. lemon juice
2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
2 quarts water

Mix together. Put in large pot, cover, heat until steaming. Stir to make sure sugar has dissolved. Serve warm. Makes about 3 quarts.

Or, put everything in a 6 quart crockpot. Simmer on low for 2-3 hours until hot. Stir before serving.