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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Fried Eggplant

I made tuna toasties for dinner last night for my kids. Since I can't eat most of the stuff in them, I fried some eggplant for my dinner. The kids devoured my eggplant along with their tuna toasties. I must have done something right. Here's the recipe so you can judge for yourself. Note that it's dairy-free and gluten-free.

Fried Eggplant

2 medium eggplant
4 eggs
2 T. water
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. paprika
1 t. garlic salt
oil for frying

Beat eggs with spices and water. Keep beating until it's smooth and mixed. Pour into a wide, flat-bottomed container. Set aside. Slice the eggplant on the diagonal to get large slices. You want them about 1/4 inch thick.

Heat 1 T. oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dip eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then place in frying pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then turn. Cook another 2 minutes. The egg coating should be golden brown and the eggplant should be slightly soft.

Serve warm. I like them plain, but you could serve with spaghetti sauce or parmesan cheese.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Valuing Differences in Writing Styles

I attended LTUE recently. It was great seeing so many friends and making new ones.

I've spent a lot of time over the last year dealing with doubt. Do I really have what it takes to be an author? Does my writing suck lemons? Is this really what I want? This was on top of chronic health problems, kitchen remodeling, job loss, and all sorts of other angst. It was not an easy year. A lot of things have changed, most of them in my head.

I was on a panel titled World Building 101. It was intimidating to be up there. Fellow panelists included James A Owen, Bob Defendi, Dan Willis, Larry Correia, and Howard Tayler. I've known all of them, except for James, for years. But I was feeling decidedly defensive, being the only woman on the panel and the least known author in the group. It didn't help it was 9 am on a Saturday and the room was packed anyway.

Howard was moderating. He'd come around to all of us the night before and told us to bring our "A game". We were going to demonstrate world building. We spent the first fifteen minutes creating two different worlds. Fun brainstorming with some great ideas. Then it turned to a discussion of how we authors build worlds for our stories.

I was starting to believe I did it wrong. All of the others start with an idea, a concept, which they build their world around. Once they have that fleshed out a bit, they drop in characters and a plot. I start with a character and a bit of plot that interests me. I build the world around whatever happens. It's a much more organic process than what they were describing.

Keep in mind these men are intimidating, big names. I've never had a creative writing class in my life. The only writing class I ever had in college was technical writing which doesn't really lend itself to fiction.

Dan Willis spoke up after I hesitantly described my process. To paraphrase, "We all write differently. Don't sweat it. Do what works for you. There is no wrong way to create a story."

There are pitfalls in writing fiction that have to do with plot holes, passive voice, switching point-of-view, and other things, but those skills can be learned. Telling stories? Creating characters and worlds? Everyone is going to do it differently. The results are a rich smorgasbord of voices and stories and ideas. Don't doubt your method, unless it isn't working for you.

Believe in your voice and your story. No one else can tell it the way you will.

And if you're ever on a panel with Howard Tayler? He can't stand the term pantsing to describe writing by the seat of your pants or making it up as you go. Just a friendly warning.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Oatmeal Bread

I've been cooking from scratch a lot lately, for several reasons. One, I have plenty of time on my hands most weeks. Two, I control all the ingredients. Three, it's cheaper. Four, it tastes better.

Here's my recipe for a healthy bread. It's very forgiving. Feel free to experiment with other grains or ingredients, just keep the ratio of wet to dry about the same and you should be good.

Oatmeal Bread

2 c. very warm water
2 t. yeast, or one packet or whatever the equivalent is (I buy mine in the big bulk package and keep it in the freezer until it's opened, then in a container in the fridge)
2 T. sugar or honey or molasses or something sweet
1/2 c. plain yogurt or 1/3 c. powdered milk (skip if you're allergic to milk, or use 1 egg instead)
2 t. salt
1 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
2 c. white flour
3 - 4 c. whole wheat flour

Mix water, yeast, sugar, and yogurt in a mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 - 10 minutes, until the yeast is dissolved and starts to bubble. Add the salt, oatmeal, white flour, and 2 c. of the whole wheat flour. Mix into a soft dough, adding more whole wheat flour as needed. Dough should be slightly sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic, at least 5 minutes. Cover and let rise for 1 - 2 hours, until double in size.

Punch down. Knead for another minute or so to smooth out. Divide in half. Shape each half into a smooth roll. Lightly spray two loaf pans - I use the 8x4 inch size, which makes a good size loaf. (Here's a great post I just discovered about choosing loaf pans. I'm headed back over to that blog soon to check out more posts.) Place the dough in the two pans, cover and let rise for about 30 - 45 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Bake the two loaves for about 25 minutes. They should be lightly browned and sound mostly hollow when you tap the top. Because of the oatmeal, this bread will be a lot more moist than white bread. Remove the bread to a rack to cool.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Basket of Book Reviews

Here's what I've been reading the last few months. Enjoy!

Julie Czerneda's awesome books - Ties of Power, To Trade the Stars, (Books 2 and 3 of the Trade Pact Cycle); Reap the Wild Wind, Riders of the Storm, Rift in the Sky (Books 1, 2, and 3 of Stratification); Beholder's Eye, Changing Vision, Hidden in Sight (Books 1, 2, and 3 of the Shapeshifter series).

I'll just say, I love her books. Great stories and characters. If you've never read one of her books, you're missing out on a real treat.

All of these are 4 or 5 star books, PG for occasional violence, but no language.

Nathan Shumate's The Golden Age of Crap, 77 B-Movies from the Glory Days of VHS

I never thought I'd enjoy reading a whole book of movie reviews, especially for such horrible movies. But I did. Immensely. I laughed, sometimes so hard I cried. Shumate skewers the movies with a light-hearted touch that betrays his love of bad movies. He wants to enjoy these bizarre, low-budget, direct-to-VHS offerings. Sometimes he does and he doesn't make any apologies for liking the movies.

My favorite review is the one for Future Hunters. I was laughing so hard I had to stop reading, not once but several times. I almost died over the line: Midget Filipino cavepeople. I'm snickering just typing that.

This book is hilarious. Definitely worth reading even if you aren't a fan of B-movies.

5-stars, PG-13 for language and summaries of really bad plots.

Frances Pauli's Man on Fire

Frances Pauli revisits her universe of space mercenaries, the one she introduce in Roarke. That book was my introduction to Frances Pauli. I'm glad she's returned to the same universe in Man on Fire.

The story starts with Amanda being woken up early from stasis to meet her new commander, who is, of course, a really hot guy. This is romance, after all. He turns out to not be the guy she thought he was, which leads to some interesting conflict.

It's a short read. Don't expect a full novel. But it's still worth your time, especially if you enjoy sci-fi and romance mixed together.

4-stars, PG for romance

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Tropical Cake

Happy Valentine's Day! It's my wedding anniversary. That makes 27 years, sweetheart. Here's to a lot more.

I've been craving cake lately. No idea why. I've never been much of a cake person. But the last few weeks, cake is the only thing I really crave. Because of my diet, I can't do chocolate cake and I can't do cake mixes and I'm not supposed to have much sugar, so I've been digging through my recipe book collection (30+ cookbooks and counting) looking for inspiration. I found an interesting banana cake recipe and modified it, because I can't follow a recipe the way it's written to save my life.

The cake is sweet, but not too sweet. It tastes better the next day.

Tropical Cake

 1/3 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. coconut extract
1 2/3 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 c. sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 c. brown sugar

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9x13 cake pan and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until soft and fluffy looking. Add eggs and bananas. Cream until bananas are mashed completely. Scrape sides. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Beat on high speed for 1 - 2 minutes, until very fluffy. Add flour and milk. Mix on low speed just until blended. Pour batter into cake pan.

Mix together topping ingredients and sprinkle over unbaked cake.

Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes, until cake tests done. (Poke it with a toothpick. It should come out clean. You can also jiggle the pan. If it still wiggles a lot in the middle, it isn't done yet. Touching it with your finger doesn't work too well with this recipe. It's a dense, moist cake. Plus, the topping gets in the way. Don't burn your fingers on the sugar!)

Serve warm or cold. It's delicious either way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unicorn Meatballs

I like to try new things. Our local grocery store marks things down to ridiculous levels. Combine the two and you get all sorts of kitchen fun. I found tubes of red velvet cookie dough marked down low enough I was willing to try it. So I bought one. The other night I cooked them.

I had the package split open so I could turn the dough, a weird pinkish red color, into balls for cookies. My husband peered over my shoulder.

"What are you making?" His voice was puzzled. "Meatballs?"

"Yep, unicorn meatballs."

From now on, these cookies will be known as Unicorn Meatballs.

(Silly me, I didn't take a picture of the package because I thought for sure someone will have a picture online. But, no. No pictures of the refrigerated cookie dough tube.)

See? Unicorn meat as meatballs and as a meat pie!

Not as much fun baked, but they're still Unicorn Meatballs.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Chocolate Frosting

This recipe comes from America's Best Recipes 1990 Edition. It's attributed to Créme de LA Coast, Small World Guild—Childrens Hospital of Orange County, CA. Page 105, if you're keeping track. (This book was one of my mom's cookbooks she passed on when she cleaned out her kitchen. And I found it for sale on Amazon? You can find anything on the internet. Except the repair and maintenance manual for a 1970s Wurlitzer electric organ, but that's a different story. If you know where the manual is, please let me know. I'd love to fix my organ.)

This is super easy and very tasty with or without frosting. The cake is moist and tender without being crumbly. It's a different flavor for cake, too.

I thought for sure I'd posted my recipe for chocolate frosting, but I haven't. So here's a good one.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1 3/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder (or use 1 1/4 t. baking soda because you find out halfway through measuring everything that you're out of baking powder and the roads are too slippery and snowy to drive to the store.)
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. milk (If it's going sour that's a bonus. The extra acidity will help if you end up using baking soda. We've gone from 2-3 gallons a week to about 1 gallon a month since my two oldest boys moved out. My hubby is the only one who can still drink it and I rarely use it in cooking.)
1/2 c. peanut butter (The recipe calls for creamy, but I used crunchy. I like the nut bits in the cupcakes.)
1/4 c. butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Dump everything in a mixing bowl. Beat on low speed for about a minute until blended. Scrape the sides then turn the speed up to high and beat for 2 more minutes. Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper baking cups. (I used a combination of miniature muffin size and regular size. The recipe made 24 mini and 11 regular.) Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes for mini and 18-20 for regular size. Cool on wire racks.

Frost with chocolate frosting or make them PB&J cupcakes:
Drop 1 t. jam into each cupcake before baking. Bake as directed. Strawberry or raspberry would be really good.

Chocolate Frosting

1/4 c. butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese (half of a block)
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 t. vanilla
2 - 3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk

Cream butter and cream cheese until blended and soft. Add cocoa powder, vanilla, and 2 c. powdered sugar. Blend on low speed until mostly mixed. It will be dry and probably a bit lumpy. Pour in milk. Beat on low speed until mixture loosens up and starts creaming. Beat on high speed for at least 3 minutes. Add powdered sugar 1/2 c. at a time, beating well after each, until desired consistency is reached. Keep any leftover frosting in the fridge. You can eat it with a spoon and pretend it's fudge if you want.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Project Updates

I turned this:

Into this:

Mending is accomplished - buttons replaced, seams fixed, alterations complete. Now to tackle the work-in-progress pile.