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

Monday, December 11, 2017

I'm on Grandma Duty Now

I'm on vacation visiting my grandkids and delivering Christmas presents. So enjoy this video. Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Noodles Romanov

Costco has enormous tubs of sour cream. Really big ones. I was running on habit when I went Thanksgiving shopping. I'm used to making food for giant crowds - minimum of ten and up to thirty or forty or more for things like Thanksgiving. We had a grand total of nine for dinner this year. And only five of us around to eat all the leftovers. I don't know how to cook or shop for only five.

So I have this giant tub of sour cream in my fridge. We're not that big on dairy at my house. One child can't eat any. Most of the rest of us can only eat small portions. We usually get our dairy allowance from cheese. Or Tillamook Vanilla Yogurt. That stuff is really tasty. Point is, we really don't eat much sour cream.

I'm getting creative at ways to use it in cooking. I made a lemon sour cream pound cake the other day that was pretty tasty. And last night, I made Noodles Romanov. The plan was Beef Stroganoff, but my daughter wouldn't have been able to eat the meat sauce if I'd done it traditional. But since she can't eat the noodles anyway, we put the sour cream in there.

Serve this stuff with a hamburger and mushroom gravy and you have a pretty close approximation of stroganoff. At least close enough for me.

Noodles Romanov

1 12 oz package pasta (I used spaghetti, traditional would call for egg noodles)
1 T. butter
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper (adjust to your taste)
1/2 c. shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 c. sour cream
1/3 c. chopped green onions

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente noodles. Drain, then dump back into the pot.

Add the butter and gently stir until it's melted and the noodles are coated. Stir in the garlic salt and black pepper. Add the cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Gently stir until coated.

Serve warm.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

More Book Giveaways!

I'm taking a break from recipes for a while. My favorite recipe right now is the speed dial for Chinese delivery. So enjoy some free books instead!

I'm really enjoying being on Instafreebie. If you haven't heard of them and you love reading, go check it out. They have book bundles and book giveaways happening all the time. You download the book directly from the site, so no coupons or other codes to worry about.

This one ends pretty fast - December 3 is the last day to claim your free books, so zip over and snag some great science fiction.



And another great line-up of books that are free through December 31.


Go over to the site, download your choice of some great science fiction, and enter the giveaway for prizes like a Nook or Kindle fire and other great stuff!

Monday, November 27, 2017

More Movie Reviews

For some weird reason, I spent way too much time on Netflix months ago and added a whole long list of old movies to my queue. We're finally getting them shipped. Yeah, I still do DVDs through Netflix because it's the only way to get my fix of some of these things.

While I've enjoyed a lot of the classics, like Singing in the Rain and the Trinity cowboy movies, others have been real duds. There is a reason I never heard of them before. I'm surprised someone cared enough to release them on DVD. Or maybe they were just trying to milk the cash cow. Here are the latest two stinkers. Still very watchable compared to the more recent disasters I've tried to watch.

The Pirate (Gene Kelley, Judy Garland, 1948)

This had a decent plot idea, but it was a mess of really bizarre dance numbers, very uneven acting, and bad directing. What promised to be a fun Gene Kelley pirate movie turned into a snooze fest of epic proportions. And I kept wanting to substitute lines from Wizard of Oz for all of Judy Garland's dialogue.

If you want to watch a movie about an actor romancing the girl and saving the day, go find a copy of The Court Jester with Danny Kaye. You won't be sorry. It's a fun romp and the musical numbers add to the story. The Pirate? You won't be sorry, but you probably won't be very entertained, either.

Du Barry was a Lady (Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelley, 1943)

I have a secret thing for Gene Kelley. I admit it openly so I guess it isn't such a secret.

Lucille Ball threw me for a loop. I had to look up the movie to find out it really was here. She played someone much different from Lucy.

Red Skelton just looked young and not as goofy as he was in later years.

The music in this one was off-kilter and felt like they had a bunch of really fun songs they wanted to perform so they strung them together with a sketchy plot they cooked up over one two many drinks the night before. Most of the movie felt like a musical variety show with Hollywood film direction.

It was weird, slightly silly, and mildly entertaining.

The other thing that struck me about these older movies is how utterly misogynistic they are. Women are to be pretty and silent. If you aren't young and elegant, you aren't worth talking to. But then the men turned into idiots whenever a woman was present, so I guess the stupidity meter went both ways back then. In both movies, they had a long, drawn-out song about all the beautiful women which turned all those beautiful women into nothing more than pin-up posters and the men into leering lust-buckets. No class, no taste.

So, I'd pretty much skip these unless you have watching every Gene Kelley movie ever made on your bucket list.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Hush Puppies (GF, DF)

I've got some Southern blood. My great-grandmother came from North Carolina. I blame that for my hankering for fried foods and enormous cakes and having to feed anyone and everyone that shows up at my house.

The quintessential Southern food has got to be hush puppies. Deep-fried balls of cornbread goodness. Mm-hm. I ate mine with honey.

Bonus! This recipe is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. It was definitely a winner.

A word about corn masa versus corn meal. Corn masa is sold in bags and is a finely ground corn flour. Corn meal is the yellow crunchy stuff that's been around for ages. Masa is usually used for making corn tortillas or tamales. Corn meal is the more traditional ingredient for cornbreads and traditional hush puppies. I used masa because 1) I had it in my pantry, and 2) I wanted a finer texture. Please don't substitute one for the other. They cook differently and absorb different amounts of liquid. I need to experiment to find a good corn meal version of hush puppies.

Hush Puppies (no pics because we ate them too fast!)

2 c. corn masa flour (see note above)
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. lemon pepper seasoning
2 t. baking powder
3 T. sugar
1/4 c. freeze-dried onion bits
1 T. dried parsley
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk (you can use the drinking stuff or the lite canned stuff)
oil for deep frying

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add eggs and coconut milk (you can use other kinds of milk or milk substitutes, but I like coconut because it adds creaminess). Stir until combined. It should be a thick batter, slightly sticky but not quite thick enough to roll out like biscuit dough. If it's too dry, stir in more coconut milk. If it's too wet, let it sit for 10 minutes to give the flour a chance to soak up the extra liquid. If it's still too wet, stir in a couple tablespoons of the corn masa.

Heat the oil to about 350° in a nice deep saucepan. You want it hot and shimmery, about where you'd fry doughnuts.

Drop one spoonful of batter into the oil to test the temperature. I used a smallish cookie scoop. The oil should start bubbling. It should take about 3-4 minutes for the hush puppy to brown nicely. Pull it out of the oil and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Break it open to check for doneness. Adjust your oil as needed. If it's still doughy inside but the outside is getting too brown, the oil is too hot. If it takes forever to cook and is like eating a greasy sponge, the oil is too cold. You can also change up the size. If they are cooking much too fast on the outside but still raw in the middle, you can try using a slightly smaller scoop. A good rounded tablespoon size seemed to be about right for my batch.

Scoop into the oil in batches of 4-8, depending on the size of your pot. Cook until done. Repeat until you run out of batter.

Serve warm with butter, honey, hot sauce, or fried catfish nuggets. Or just eat the little balls of deliciousness.

Makes around 3 dozen or so, depending on how big you scoop them.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Giveaway!

This is your last week to grab some great FREE fiction over at instafreebie. I'm in a giveaway with a lot of other authors featuring Robots, Wizards, and Zombies.

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories up for grabs. No strings, no coupon codes, just claim the ones you want, download to your ereader, and enjoy!

Check them out -


#instafreebie

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chicken Piccata

So I ran across this recipe for Chicken Piccata the other day and had to try it out. Of course I couldn't make it the way it said because of food allergies, so I did it my way. I like the way it turned out. It's basically sautéed chicken breast in a creamy sauce flavored with lemon and thyme and capers. Serve it over pasta and you have a tasty dinner that doesn't take long to make.

Chicken Piccata

2 T. oil
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 lemon, sliced
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 T. chicken bouillon
3 c. warm water
3-4 T cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water
3-4 T. capers

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over med-high heat. Add chicken, lemon slices, and thyme sprigs. If using dry thyme, don't add it here! Sauté until chicken is browned. Turn heat to med-low. Remove lemon slices and thyme sprigs and discard.

To the chicken chunks, add salt, pepper, bouillon, and warm water. Cover and cook until chicken is just barely done, usually about 10 minutes depending on how big your chunks are.

Remove lid and turn heat back up. Stir cornstarch into cold water and add it to the sauce when it is boiling. This is just to thicken it up.

Stir in capers, simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Serve over pasta or rice with extra capers as a garnish.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review - The Rose Thief by Claire Buss

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) for review purposes.

The Rose Thief by Claire Buss

The roses of the Emperor, may he live forever and ever, are being stolen. Which wouldn't be such a problem, except some idiot imbued the red one with LOVE, and if it gets stolen, all the love will die. It's up to intrepid Chief Thief-Catcher Ned, his sidekick sprite, and an assorted team of weirdos to save the day and keep love alive.

The book is full of unexpected twists and turns, fun characters, and generally just a lot of enjoyable silliness.

But, and it is a big one, my copy was filled with typos and other editing issues. The farther I got in the book, the more problems I found. I'm not sure if it is because I got an ARC and the published version has been cleaned up or not. I can overlook some typos because even the most careful editor will miss a few, but entire missing words, run-on sentences, misspellings, and bad formatting have my editorial hackles itching for my red pen. So if those sorts of things bother you, don't read the book.

If you enjoy silly adventures with plenty of action and magic and even a kiss or three, you'll probably enjoy The Rose Thief.

3 stars, it would be 5 if the problems weren't so distracting.
(Very mild language and innuendo, mild kissing and extremely mild violence. And dirty sock jokes.)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Quick Apple Pie Cake and GF version

This is so easy and so fast to throw together. It's tasty, which is also good because it doesn't really keep as leftovers. It's best eaten warm, right from the oven, with a large scoop of ice cream or whipped topping.

I found the recipe in an old 1966 cookbook - Mary Meade's Modern Homemaker Cookbook. Great recipes in that thing.

Quick Apple Pie Cake

2/3 c. sugar, brown or white, your choice
1/3 c. flour, whole or white, your choice
1 t. baking powder
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. apples, cored and diced, don't worry about peeling them
cinnamon sugar if desired (3 T. sugar mixed with 1/2 t. cinnamon)

 Heat oven to 350°. Grease an 8" pie pan, set aside.

Stir sugar, flour, and baking powder together. Add egg and vanilla. Stir just until moistened. Add apple. Stir just until mixed in.

Spread in pie pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve immediately with plenty of ice cream or whipped topping.

GF Apple Pie Cake

1/2 c. Gluten-free Bisquick
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. coconut milk (or almond or rice or any other kind of milk or milk substitute)
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 large apple, cored and chopped - about 1 1/2 c.

Mix bisquick and sugar. Add milk, egg, and vanilla. Stir until moistened. Stir in apple bits. Spread in greased 8" pie pan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Serve hot.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Bundle - Winter Warmer


Coming Dec 1st 2017 for 3 months only! Pre-Order now!
Winter Warmer Bundle
Winter - A time of festivity, of hardship, and cold. Perhaps it remains the most superstitious of seasons and for many the most beloved. Snow, feasting, gifts, religious importance, family and getting together.  And of storytelling!
Thirteen tales set in, or about, the harshest season. From witches, winter realms and faery kings, to snowmen who build winter people of meat, to heroes battling to save a friend, and detectives trying to solve wintery crimes and mysteries, to Christmas romance there is something for everyone in this winter warmer.
A 3-month bundle.

Book #1:
Sanctuary
Book #2:
Snowman's Chance in Hell
Book #3:
Tollard's Peak
Book #4:
Phoenix
Book #5:
The Tuxedoed Man
Book #6:
Nutball Season
Book #7:
The Dreamweaver's Journey
Book #8:
Dark Dancer
Book #9:
Coconutty Christmas
Book #10:
Nobody's Child
Book #11:
Freak Sanctuary
Book #12:
Desperate Housewitches
Book #13:

Winter Glory

Joining me to help promote this great collection is author A. L. Butcher.


British-born Alexandra Butcher (a/k/a  A. L. Butcher) is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet, and a dreamer, a lover of science, natural history, history, and monkeys. Her prose has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.  She writes with a sure and sometimes erotic sensibility of things that might have been, never were, but could be.
Alex is the author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles and the Tales of Erana lyrical fantasy series. She also has several short stories in the fantasy, fantasy romance genres with occasional forays into gothic style horror. With a background in politics, classical studies, ancient history and myth, her affinities bring an eclectic and unique flavour in her work, mixing reality and dream in alchemical proportions that bring her characters and worlds to life.

Social Media links
Amazon Author page http://amzn.to/2hK33OM
Facebook Author Page http://bit.ly/FB2j0bbdZ
Library of Erana Blog http://bit.ly/Blog2iAWL3o


Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
Predominantly I’m a fantasy writer, but I also write poetry, dabble in horror and erotica. I love fantasy as it’s such a versatile genre. Anything and everything is possible. 
I am not sure I have ‘favourites’ – they all are in their own ways. New? I’m working on Book IV of the series, several short stories and I’ve recently got involved with Bundlerabbit curating book bundles. It’s fun, and a great way to get new readers, and for readers to get bargains!
I have (as of November) Mythic Tales, as of Dec – Winter Warmer – and then next year I have a charity bundle to commemorate the centenary of the first Armistice, plus several other fantasy/spec fic themed, seasonal themed or more… spicy themed.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I’m a bit of a nerd. I like to read a lot, of course, but I also play computer games, watch movies and bum about online. Fav books (not my own) –. Lord of the Rings, Diskworld, Sacred Band, I the Sun, Count of Monte Cristo, Phantom of the Opera, Cadfael, War of the Worlds. Fav movies – hmm Dead Poets Society, Star Wars, superhero stuff, Guardians of the Galaxy. 

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
I have a delightful doggy. She’s my first dog and I love her to bits. She’s not a big cat fan so I guess the kitten I keep asking for is probably off the cards.

Any advice you'd like to share about writing? 
Write what you want to read and what makes you happy, not what is popular at any given time. Keep writing. You probably won’t make a living from one book (unless you’re lucky) but if you write for the love of it then you’ll write because you have to, lest all the voices and stories in your head come tumbling out and cause mayhem.
It’s a steep learning curve. Unless you have the money to spend on advertising etc then you’ll have to learn to be your own marketer and promoter. Learn how to use the software you need. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Network, network, network. 
Read the FAQ and TOS of your publishing site. Seriously – don’t expect to second guess or think it doesn’t apply to you. It’s a legally binding contract and you will save a lot of bother by being familiar with the terms.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
A very long list! CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Mary Shelley, HG Wells, JRR Tolkein, Alexandre Dumas, Ellis Peters, I could probably think of hundreds more.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
Roman Britain. I love Roman History and so to see the realities of live in one of the provinces would be fascinating.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
Archos and Olek. Olek eats anything but Archos is a little more discerning. I think we’d have roast lamb, with mint sauce and roasties, followed my late mother’s lemon meringue pie. Yummy.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
On Earth: Iceland, Canada, the bottom of the sea, New Zealand. Off Earth – Mars. 

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Black.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chocolate Chip Cobbler (GF)

No, it isn't really a cobbler, not technically. But it is a delicious cookie bar that happens to be wheat-free.

Chocolate Chip Cobbler Bars

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 small or medium eggs (or 3 if you're using jumbo or extra-large)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. oatmeal (quick cooking is best for this recipe)
1 c. almond flour
1/2 c. rice flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips

Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Cream until very smooth and light in color, at least 2 minutes on high. Stir in oatmeal, flours, cornstarch, and chips. Stir until well mixed. Spread in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, until very lightly browned on the edges and mostly set in the middle.

Let the cookie bars cool for at least an hour before cutting and serving.

To make these with normal flour - substitute 1 1/2 c. regular all-purpose flour for the almond flour, rice flour, and cornstarch.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Movie Review - Buccaneer's Girl (1950)

I have a thing for pirates. I love pirate movies, most of them anyway. So when I saw pirate movies on Netflix DVDs, I had to add them to my queue.

Buccaneer's Girl (1950) was a great movie. I didn't have a lot of expectations going in, but found myself enjoying it immensely. The acting is pretty decent, the costumes funky, and the story solid. The songs, yes it is a musical, are short and sweet and easy enough to live through.

Debbie is a stowaway on a pirate ship. She's running away from an unsatisfactory life, looking for a better one. She's got attitude and spunk leaking from every pore, but not in the grumpy annoying modern teenage fashion. She's light-hearted, mostly happy, but she doesn't take anyone's garbage.

Of course the ship she's on is captured by the notorious pirate, Baptiste. Yes, they fall in love. The romance is understated and very fun to watch. I won't say anymore because I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone.

I've been involved in a lot of discussions about what makes a strong female character. For me, this movie totally nails it. Debbie is strong without being witchy. She knows her own mind. She has her own goals and ends. She is definitely her own person. She doesn't need a man to define her. The relationship she builds with Baptiste is an equal partnership. And so what if she decides she wants to get married? It's her choice, completely. And she won't settle for just any man. She isn't looking for someone to dominate her or run her life. She wants someone who offers her respect, autonomy, and the space to still be herself.

It's an awesome movie. If you can find it, spend a couple hours to watch it. It was a fun romp.

5 stars
G - mild sword fighting with no blood and obviously fake stabbing, very mild suggestive lyrics and dance in one song

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Cobbler

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe. This is my go-to dessert in the fall or anytime I have a pile of apples sitting around. I did post recipes for berry brown betty, peach cobbler, plum cobbler, and mixed fruit cobbler. But no apple cobbler. It deserves a post of its own, so here it is.

Apple Cobbler

1 quart cold water
1/4 c. lemon juice
6-8 large apples, or enough apples to make about 8 c. of slices
2 T. tapioca pearls
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. allspice
1/4 t. cardamom
1/2 c. butter
2 c. oatmeal
1 c. brown sugar

Pour cold water in a very large bowl. Add lemon juice, set aside.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Drop the slices into the lemon water. Save the cores and peels for apple jelly.

Drain the slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the tapioca, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cardamom. Toss until the apple slices are coated and the spices are evenly distributed. Dump into a 9x13 baking pan. Set aside.

Melt the butter. Add the oatmeal and brown sugar. Stir until mixed. Sprinkle over the apple slices.

Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes, until apples are soft and top is browned. Serve hot with plenty of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Or try strawberry ice cream for a different taste.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Craft Fair Experiences

I was a vendor at my first ever craft fair. I've attended quite a few over the years, just never as a vendor. My friends and I took our collection of crocheted stuff and sold it.

We did pretty well. I made more money than it cost me to be there. But then I spent it at other vendor booths. My little bit to help the economy.

We're looking for other craft fairs to attend so if you know of any in Washington near tri-cities or Moses Lake, please let me know.

If you want to buy any of my crocheted things, I'll be happy to work out a mail-order deal for you. Send me an email, please. jaletaclegg @ gmail.com

I've got wristwarmer mitts in all kinds of fun yarn, cotton dishcloths and scrubbies, hats, rose hair clips, and lots of little stuffed animals, mostly hedgehogs and bunnies right now. Oh, and loads of little turtle keychains.




That's all just my stuff. My friends didn't make it the first day, but I had no problem filling a 9 foot table by myself. I think my yarn addiction is getting out of control...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Jelly

Apple jelly is really easy to make and very tasty. Next time you're peeling and coring apples, save those scraps to juice for jelly.

Apple Jelly

8 c. apple peels and cores
5 c. water
5 T. pectin OR 1 box
5 c. sugar

Pack the peels and cores into a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Pour the 6 c. of water over the top. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 4-6 hours.

Carefully drain off the juice into a measuring cup. You need 5 c. total of the juice. Add a little extra water if you come up short. Discard the juiced peels and cores.

Pour the 5 c. of juice into a large pan (I use my 5quart stew pot for this). Add the pectin. Bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Once it hits a full, rolling boil (it keeps bubbling even when you are stirring), add the sugar. Keep stirring while you bring it back to a full boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and pour into hot pint jars. Seal and process the jars.

Makes about 3 pints.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Have a New Purse

I'm sure that title just reached out and grabbed you by the throat and screamed, "READ ME NOW!" Totally gripping. Yup. Not boring at all.

Yeah, I struggle with titles. I spend hours trying them out in my head only to be met with shrugs when I run them past my kids.

I remember years ago picking up a book by an author I'd never heard of before and being so intrigued by the title that I just had to read it. A Thousand Words for Stranger did not disappoint. Julie Czerneda gained a new fan that day. I love her books. And I'm glad I took a chance on a book simply because it had such a fantastic title.

What titles have reached out and grabbed you? Or what titles would you love to see on a book someday?

Comment with your most epic title and I might actually award someone a prize for it.

The poor tribble, all worn out.
And I do have a new purse. My poor tribble was dying after many years of faithful service lugging my wallet, keys, and junk around. But my laptop didn't quite fit. It does fit in my new purse. Plus, I have a pocket just for my current crochet project for those times when I'm stuck somewhere and need to keep my fingers busy. And lots more pockets. I have pockets that are still empty.

Bonus: My teenage daughter told me it was a hideous granny purse. Score!




The new purse in all its hideous glory!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Apple Butter

I'm a day late and a dollar short. Like usual lately. I got busy and forgot to get the recipe post up. Too many apples. Too many errands. Too many everything!

Apple butter is like a cross between applesauce and jam. It goes great on pancakes, waffles, muffins, toast, biscuits, and pretty much anything else you'd put jam on. It was really easy to make, too.

Save the peels and cores to make apple jelly. It's easy and tasty and very pretty. I'll post the recipe next week.

Apple Butter

12 apples
cold water
lemon juice
3 or 4 quart crockpot

Wash apples.

Fill a large bowl half full of cold water. Add 2 T. of lemon juice to the water. Set aside.

Peel, core, and slice the apples, dropping them into the lemon water bowl as you work. This helps keep them from turning brown.

Drain the slices and dump into your crockpot. They should fill it pretty much up to the top. Add 1/2 c. water. Sprinkle 2 T. lemon juice over the apple slices. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours until the apples are soft and starting to fall apart. Stir them really well to break up the chunks. If you stop now, you have applesauce. The apples should have broken down to only fill the crockpot about half-way.

Remove the lid and continue to cook for another 4-8 hours, stirring every hour or two. The applesauce should turn caramel brown as it reduces. When it's really thick and down to about one-third of the starting volume of applesauce, it's done.

Package it into hot pint canning jars and process to seal. OR let it cool down and put into airtight containers and keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Makes about 2 pints of apple butter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Sasquatch Story

Check out the photos on this site!
I've been researching folklore lately. You can't live near the Cascade Mountains and NOT research Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch, at least a little. Giant hairy apes living in the forests that instinctively know how to avoid scientists and people with good cameras? Yeah, right. I'm usually a skeptic.

But, years ago, I had my own close encounter with Sasquatch.

I was just a few days shy of my twelfth birthday. My dad had decided to take me and some of my siblings on a backpacking trip with one of his friends in the Uinta Mountains in Utah. The plan was that we'd live on ramen, hot chocolate packets, and the loads of fresh trout we were going to catch.

Early one morning, Dad, his friend, and my older brother had gone off to a nearby lake to go fishing. My sisters and I were back at the camp next to another lake. I didn't want to fish, so I went off exploring around the lake. The fish weren't biting.

These lakes weren't very big, but there were a lot of them in the area. It's beautiful country. We were the only humans for miles around. Or so we thought.

I came around one end of the lake and found a stretch of muddy bank. And right in the middle of the mud, was the biggest footprint I think I've ever seen. It looked like a barefoot human foot, but not even my dad had feet that big. He'd also gone the opposite direction.

I poked around, looking to see if someone else was camping, but found no trace of anyone in the area. Just that lone footprint.

To this day, I have no idea where it came from. Did Bigfoot come to the lake to drink during the night leaving only his bare footprint behind? Maybe.

I halfway hope that's the truth, because I'd love to believe there's a lot more mysteries on this planet than we think.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chowder Base

I have neglected to post this recipe. Clam Chowder is one of my all-time favorite soups. This recipe is a great base to build on for many types of soup. Feel free to add in clams for clam chowder, corn for corn chowder, or whatever else you like.

Chowder Base

2 T. butter
1/2 c. onion, chopped small
1/2 c. diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small carrot, diced small
3 medium potatoes, diced
1 T. chicken boullion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
4 c. hot water
2 c. milk or cream
2 T. cornstarch

Melt butter in a large pot. Add onion. Cook and stir for a few minutes, until onion is soft. Add celery and garlic. Cook for another  minute. Add in carrot, potatoes, chicken boullion, salt, pepper, and water. Cover and simmer for about an hour, until vegetables are tender.

Mix milk and cornstarch. Stir into soup. Simmer on low for about ten minutes until soup thickens. Adjust seasonings if needed.

*For clam chowder - add 1 can of clams with the milk.
*For corn chowder - add 1 can of corn with the potatoes, do not drain

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fun Anthology - Tales from the Underground

I've got a story in this collection. They all involve caves and/or underground. The genres are mixed - science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

It's up for pre-order now. The book will be delivered October 6, so grab it while the grabbing's good!

Tales from the Underground: Twelve tales of hidden legends

Under our feet lie countless realms of possibility. Join twelve writers as they explore those realms - discovering lands of fantasy, lands from our far future, lands of mystery. 

There are places full of wonders, full of terrors, full of visions of what could be. 

Join us, down here, in the dark.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chicken Cordon Bleu (GF and cow free!)

I love chicken cordon bleu, but it doesn't love me back. The original dish is a chicken breast pounded flat, layered with ham and swiss cheese, then rolled up, coated in bread crumbs and fried to delicious crispiness. It's a massive gall bladder attack, heart attack, cholesterol nightmare; but it's so tasty...

So I decided to make a more diet-friendly version. And while I was at it, I decided to make it gluten free so my daughter could eat it too. But that also meant we had to swap out the cheese for a sheep cheese. (Can't do goat cheese because I'm allergic to it.)

So if you aren't gluten-free, go ahead and use regular panko bread crumbs. If the cheese isn't a problem for you, use your favorite cheese. I recommend swiss cheese, but havarti, provolone, or monterey jack would also work well.

For the ham, choose whatever deli ham you like best—canadian bacon, black forest ham, honey smoked ham, or whatever sounds good to you. I like using the natural hams mostly because the chemicals added to most deli meats give me issues. Me and my GI tract need to have a long talk about reacting to things...

Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 chicken breasts
8 slices of deli ham
8 slices of Manchego cheese (sheep cheese from Costco - delicious!)
1 egg
1 c. gluten-free bread crumbs or gluten-free croutons, crushed fine
chopped parsley for garnish

Lay a chicken breast flat on a cutting board. Slice it horizontally into two thinner pieces. Repeat for the other three breasts.

Flatten each chicken breast by pounding it with a meat hammer or a rolling pin. You want them fairly thin.

Lay a slice of ham and cheese on each breast piece. Roll it up with the ham and cheese on the inside. Use a toothpick to hold the rolls closed.

Beat the egg with 1 T. of water.

Bread the chicken rolls by dipping them into the egg, then into the bread crumbs. If you use croutons, no need to add extra seasonings. Otherwise, you can add 1/2 t. of oregano or sage to the bread crumbs. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish.

Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink and breading is nice and crispy. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 8 servings - size depends on how big the chicken breasts were to start with.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Garden Stories

This is a story of the little garden in my backyard. It produces tons of veggies and fruits. My husband was in charge of planting it this year so we ended up with an interesting mix that wasn't what I had planned but it's okay. My husband is a casual gardener. He weeds maybe once a month when the weeds get higher than the veggies or he convinces me to go out with him.

My husband also believes in letting volunteer squash and tomatoes grow. Many of the varieties you plant are hybrids, so when they cross-pollinate, you get some very weird varieties. We got red pear tomatoes one year and teeny tiny red cherry tomatoes another. This year, we have some weird squash. Tasty, but weird. They look like zucchini, sort of. We just picked one that looks like a zucchini shaped acorn squash. Can't wait to cut into it to see what it tastes like. Others are a cross between delicata and zucchini. Mild tasting and less wet than zucchini, they worked great in zucchini bread and stir fry.

We also have these - tigger melons. They're about baseball size and taste a lot like a honeydew except not quite as sweet. They're an heirloom variety of muskmelon.

Maybe next year I'll plant my flowerbed of okra that I wanted to do this year.

What weird fruits or veggies have you tried that are not the normal stuff? Did it grow well for you? What did you do with it? I'd love recipes or other fun stuff.

Now to get back to making tigger melon jam. New experiment for me. I'll do a recipe post on it if it turns out.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Eggs Benedict with Blender Hollandaise Sauce

"What are eggs benedict?"

I glanced up from my video game. "Why do you ask?"

My daughter shrugged. "They always talk about them on Food Network. I just wondered what they were."

"Poached eggs on toast with ham and hollandaise sauce."

"That sounds delicious. Can we make them?"

I thought about it for a minute. "Not tonight. I don't have any ham."

We finally have ham, eggs, and all the rest of the ingredients so we tried it. Verdict is Eggs Benedict are delicious but they make a humungous pile of dirty dishes. And they aren't quite as simple as they look on tv.

Here's my version:

Eggs Benedict

Eggs - 1 or 2 per person
Deli Ham - 1 or 2 slices per person
Toast - sourdough bread, GF bread, or rice, depending on the person and their allergies
Sliced Havarti or Manchego cheese
Blender Hollandaise Sauce (recipe follows)
Chopped Green Onions, for garnish

Fry the ham until it's hot.
Toast your bread of choice.
Make the hollandaise sauce.
Fry eggs over easy - whites set and yolks runny.

Each person gets to assemble their own - Place toast on plate, top with ham then cheese. Gently place the egg on top. Drizzle some hollandaise over, then sprinkle with green onions.

Eat with a fork and knife. It gets really messy, but it's delicious.

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
3 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
2-3 drops tabasco sauce

Melt butter in a small saucepan over med-low heat. Keep cooking it until it is nice and hot but not browning or burning. If it starts to boil, you've gone way too far.

Dump egg yolks into a blender. Add lemon juice, salt, and tabasco. Blend on low just until mixed well. Turn speed up to med-low. Drizzle hot butter into the blender while it's running. Let it blend for about 15 seconds after you finish adding the butter.

Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers. Don't try to reheat it or it separates. Try using a spoonful on top of fish when you serve it. Or spoon a dollop on top of steamed asparagus or broccoli. It's got a great lemon-butter taste.

Monday, September 18, 2017

More News...

Since I'm struggling writing new stuff other than short stories, I'm working on other venues and ideas. Here's an update, in case you're interested.

First off, I'm working on my health issues. They've gotten so bad lately that I'm having a hard time getting anything done other than binge watching Netflix and playing too many online games. If it requires brainpower or energy, it usually isn't going to get very far. But hopefully, I'm finally with the right specialist and on the right medications. I'll know within a couple of months. It's hard being a one-person publishing house, even if the only author is me. It takes more energy and time than you'd think to get things published and out there for you to read, even if I'm not trying to write it, too.

Second, I'm working on getting my backlog out in audio. It's a struggle. I found a narrator I loved, but she's not doing books any more. So I found another one. She's pretty good. I hope she'll do the rest of the Altairan Empire series. Meanwhile, I'm working on getting other books and stories out there, but the narrators are hard to come by. I've had a couple of them flake out on me.

Third, I'm writing short stories to publish. Slowly. Mostly getting rejections so I'm working on another short story collection. I've got enough of a backlist, new stories as well as ones published in various anthologies and magazines, to fill a new volume.

Barf-on-a-Cookie-Sheet Cookies
aka S'Mores Bars
Fourth, I'm toying with the idea of cookbooks. If there's enough interest, I'll collect all my recipes to date and put them together in a cookbook. Downside is that my current publishing options don't handle cookbooks well. I want spiral bound and coated paper. Plus I need to get some nice food photos taken, not my usual barf-on-a-cookie-sheet look. So, shout out in the comments if you want a printed cookbook. I can also do ebook cookbooks easily enough, if that's more your style. Let me know what you are interested in and I'll make it happen. Eventually.

Fifth, I'm crocheting like a mad woman. And selling yarn stuff at cons. It makes more money than my books.

Speaking of money, I spend two afternoons a week teaching piano. It's a great part-time job, but it takes a lot of my limited amount of energy. Between that and my own kids, I'm exhausted most days.

And the last bit of news, I'm putting all of my Altairan Empire books into two ebook bundles. The first bundle is on sale here and includes books 1-5. If you already own all the books, THANK YOU! If not, here's your chance to get them all for a great price. I'm also working on a collection of my short stories set in that universe. I've got several more to write first.

So, how's your life going?


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Cinnamon Peach Coconut Ice Cream

I have a pile of fresh peaches. And I want peach ice cream. I can't find any at the store. So I'll just have to make my own. And since I'm going to the effort of making it from scratch, I may as well make some that my daughter can enjoy too.

So here's to dairy-free, fresh peach ice cream!

Cinnamon Peach Coconut Ice Cream

1 16-oz can coconut milk (not the lite stuff or the drinking stuff)
1 c. almond milk (go ahead and use the drinking stuff)
1/2 c. honey
4 egg yolks
1 stick cinnamon
1 c. fresh peaches, peeled and chopped

Whisk the egg yolks and honey together in a large metal mixing bowl OR the top of a double boiler. Beat for at least one minute - you want them well combined. Set aside.

Fill a saucepan or the bottom of the double boiler with hot water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

Stir the coconut milk and almond milk together in a small saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick. Cook over medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

Stir a little of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture. Beat well. Add the hot milk a little at a time until all of it has been stirred into the egg yolks. Place the bowl or double boiler over the simmering water. Cook and stir just until it thickens and coats a spoon, about 185°F or about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour into a covered container and refrigerate at least three hours.

Process the custard in your ice cream maker according to directions. When it starts to freeze up, add in the peaches. Let it finish processing.

Enjoy as soft serve, or freeze for later.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Dal

I've been on an Indian food kick lately. It doesn't have to be heavy or weird or spicy, though.

Dal is a side dish made from lentils. I used red lentils and got a nice mush, a lot like refried beans except greenish yellow and a different flavor. Regular brown lentils won't fall apart so you'll end up with a thick soup instead of a mush. You could try yellow lentils or one of the other varieties if you can find them.

Lentils are healthy. They're low-fat, low-fart (as opposed to beans), high fiber, and high protein. With the right mix of spices, they're also quite tasty.

Weird trivia - the "pulse" that Daniel (from the Old Testament) was most likely lentils.

Use this as you would refried beans - in tortillas, as a side dish with cheese (use a hard white cheese like manchego for best flavor), or as a main dish vegan soup.

Dal

1/2 c. chopped onion
1 lb lentils, whatever variety you like
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. paprika
hot water

Dump onions, lentils, and spices into a smallish crockpot (2-3 quart works great). Add just enough hot water to cover the lentils completely. Cook on high for 2 hours. Stir well. Add more water if needed.

Turn heat to low. Continue cooking until the lentils are soft. Add water as needed for the consistency you like. It usually takes about 1-2 hours on low to get them really soft and smooshy.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Like a Duck

I am like a duck. I'll explain that in a moment.

This is what I accomplished last Tuesday:


That's a nectarine cobbler, a plum cobbler, four quarts of nectarine pie filling, and six pints of plum jam. It took most of the morning. What you DON'T see is the enormous pile of dirty dishes doing this generated. Several large bowls for holding fruit in various stages of being peeled, chopped, sliced, mixed, and processed. A giant pot that got rinsed out and reused several times. Big spoons. Knives. Measuring cups. Cutting boards. My canning funnel. Lots of dishes.

Looking at the picture, it doesn't seem like it should have taken that much time to produce so little. How much time and effort should it take to make a pint of jam? Honestly, how much do you think?

Those who have made jams and jellies and canned fruit and made cobblers from fresh fruit know how much effort it takes to process fruit. This was just two big bowls, one of nectarines and one of plums. That's 3-4 hours worth of work on the counter. It won't take nearly that long to eat it. All of it.

Writing is very similar. Hours and hours and hours of work goes into something you can read in an afternoon.

And now to explain the title of this post. Watch a duck on the water sometime. They look so serene as they glide along. But if you could dive underneath and watch them from that angle, their little feet and legs are going like crazy. It takes a lot of work to look that calm.

Watch the babies in this video to see what I mean:



Sometimes, we're the momma ducks, who just need to kick water a little to glide across the pond. Sometimes, we're the baby ducks, paddling for all we're worth just to stay in position.

And sometimes we're just really really grateful we have children who will wash that mound of dirty dishes we just created.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Plum Cobbler

Plums aren't usually the first fruit people think about when they think about cobbler. But this time of year, when they are ripening on the trees, I remember all the bowls of plums we picked from the trees in our yard when I was growing up. My dad loved fresh fruit. He planted a mini orchard in our front yard and a matching one along the edges of the garden in the back. Cherries, peaches, plums, and the lone apple tree that was there when we moved in. We won't even mention all the grape vines he added to that yard. Let's just say we were juicing, canning, and processing fruit from June through November most years.

I love fresh plums. My favorites are the Italian prunes. Yep. The ones they dry and sell as old people digestive aids. Fresh, they are sweet and juicy. The pits pop right out. Best of all, they are compact in size but not in flavor.

I got my hands on a box of Italian prunes. A big pile of them are now jam - lovely deep red-purple jam. And another pile are now Plum Cobbler. I can't wait to dig in.

Plum Cobbler

2-3 quarts of freestone plums
1 c. sugar
2 T. instant tapioca
2 c. oatmeal
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

Wash the plums. Cut them in half and remove the pits. Roughly chop the halved plums. You should end up with about 6-8 c. of chopped plums.

Add sugar and tapioca to plums. Toss until well coated. Dump into a greased cake pan. Spread evenly across the pan. Set aside.

Mix oatmeal, brown sugar, and butter. (I usually use the bowl I just mixed the plum stuff in. One less dish to wash.) Spread oatmeal mix over the top of the plums.

Bake at 325°F for 45-55 minutes, until plums are soft and juice is bubbling.

Let cool at least one hour before serving to allow the tapioca to thicken the juices. Or serve hot with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Melon Report

We planted Tigger Melons last year and got nothing. We planted them again this year and have a bumper crop. They grow on medium vines, kind of like cantaloupe. The melons are about the size of a softball.

The unripe ones look like little round watermelons—dark green with lighter green stripes. When they turn a pale orange, they're ripe. The darker orange ones are overripe and not as tasty, but still quite good. Unripe, they taste like cucumbers. You can peel them and use them like cucumbers, too. The ripe ones taste like honeydew. Very delicious.

So if you're looking for a different melon to try, Tigger melons are fun and as easy to grow as cucumbers.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Eclipse Ring'O'Fire Cookies

I wanted to do something for the eclipse. I have not-so-fond memories of train wreck pudding from grade school. It involved chocolate pudding and whipped topping and sticking out your tongue. Now that I think about it, it was more than just gross. But moving on...

The total eclipse has a ring of light with a dark middle and dark outside. Chocolate and vanilla coming right up!

Eclipse Ring'O'Fire Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. shortening or coconut oil
2/3 c. white sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. cocoa
4 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
3 c. flour (1 1/2 white and 1 1/2 whole wheat OR 1 1/2 rice flour and 1 1/2 almond flour)
18 large marshmallows
36 Hershey's kisses

Cream butter, shortening, and sugars. Add cocoa and beat well. Add eggs, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Cream until smooth and fluffy. Stir in flour.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°. Grease two baking sheets.

Scoop dough into 1 inch balls, it should make 36 cookies. Place them on the baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes.

Pull the marshmallows in half. Push a half marshmallow onto the top of each cookie. Do it gently or the cookies will crumble too much. Bake the cookies for another minute.

Push a kiss into the middle of the marshmallow on each cookie, bottom side up. Let them sit and cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes.

Enjoy.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Bizarro Search Engine Auto-Complete

Woohoo! Eclipse Day is here! Are you excited?

What would your browser search engine history say about you? I read an intriguing story that was told all as a search engine history. There was so much hidden between the lines, yet it was a rich, full story. I'm toying with the idea of writing some stories this way.

Search engine history can be funny, too. I was looking for a name for a character  the other day. Baby name generator sites are great for this. So I started typing the letters I wanted the name to start with. Then had to stop and laugh. This is what auto-complete gave me:

Totally going to name my fancy-pants girly character CreamedEggs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Chocolate GF Sponge Cake

I'm experimenting with a wheat-free diet. My health issues are getting the best of me and I'm willing to try anything that might help at this point.

So I decided to start this wheat-free diet on my birthday. While I have guests in the house. And all sorts of other crap going on in my life. Not a good idea. Extra stress is not pleasant.

But it did give me the option of playing around with my GF sponge cake recipe. It's easy, fairly quick to pull together, and makes a delicious cake. I made one on Saturday that was gone before everyone got a slice. It was vanilla, filled with coconut cream, whipped topping, and fresh berries. Today I shall attempt chocolate sponge with chocolate whipped frosting.

*Note: This cake is more dry than the vanilla version. It's best to underbake it a bit, then after it cools, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Frost and serve the next day. Mine also didn't rise nearly as high as the vanilla one. Still tasty.

Chocolate Gluten-Free Sponge Cake

7 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. rice flour
3/4 c. almond flour

Heat oven to 325. Grease a 10-inch springform pan and set aside.

Separate eggs, being careful to keep the yolks out of the whites. Set the whites aside.

Beat the yolks until very thick and creamy, at least 3-5 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Beat for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in flours. Set aside.

Beat whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg yolk mixture and cocoa into the whites until the bits of white foam are all incorporated and cocoa is mixed in.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then gently release the cake. Finish cooling on a baking rack.

Once cool, split the cake into two layers. Fill with half of the chocolate frosting. Use the rest of the frosting to decorate the cake. Refrigerate to set.

Store in the fridge.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Promo!



I've got a friend with a book going FREE for one day only. If you enjoy clean romance, check out this book. (She even has a great title - I've got a Second Chances story out, too. Great minds...)

Second Chances by Donna K. Weaver

Thirty-seven-year-old Francie Davis is sure her luck has changed when she lands a job on campus that will pay her tuition. But when her handsome new boss yells at her on the first day of work, Francie learns that the last person you expect to fall in love with might be the one that’s the most perfect for you.




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Hawaiian Haystacks

This is another of those build-it-yourself recipes. Everyone puts their own together with whatever they like. It's easy to adapt to various food allergies and preferences. It's also easy to cook, which is always a win in my book.

Hawaiian Haystacks

4-5 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I use the frozen ones straight from the freezer)
2 c. water
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 T. chicken bouillon
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. rosemary
1/2 t. thyme
2 c. white rice
1 t. salt
4 1/2 c. water

Put the chicken in a large crockpot. Cover and cook on low 3-4 hours or high 2-3 hours, just until the chicken is barely done.

Remove chicken from the crockpot, leaving the liquid behind. Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks and put back into the crockpot. Mix the 2 c. water, cornstarch, bouillon, and herbs together, then gently stir into the chicken. Cover and let cook on low for another 45 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, combine rice, salt, and 4 1/2 c. water. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or so until rice is done. Or just dump everything in your rice cooker and let it do its thing.

Serve chicken gravy over rice with any or all of the following toppings. Season with soy sauce to taste.

Toppings (not limited to this list, use your imagination):
sliced celery
shredded carrots
pineapple tidbits
green onions
chopped bell pepper
chopped daikon radish
sliced water chestnuts
bamboo shoots
sliced almonds
raisins
coconut
corn
sliced olives
shredded lettuce
chow mein noodles


Monday, August 7, 2017

Random Images from my Phone

Okay, not totally random. These were just the latest four that were downloaded to my laptop.

This is the famous Teapot Dome Gas Station in Zillah, WA. We stopped on our way to Husum, WA, where we went white water rafting on the Little White Salmon River. High adventure for me and my hubby.
 The gas station is now a historical site. It wasn't open when we were there so we couldn't buy any keepsakes inside the little station, but we could walk around and look at it. Cute little building.
 And check out the prices! I haven't seen gas that low for decades!
I also made totoros for a friend's children. If you haven't seen the movie, it's a cute one from Studio Ghibli. My Friend Totoro is a good one to watch with kids, although it might give them a few ideas...

What have you been up to?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thursday Recipe - Saucy Potatoes in the Slow Cooker or in Foil on the Grill

Grilling potatoes just doesn't work for me. Yeah, I could wrap them up and make baked potatoes, but I still haven't got the temperature thing right. They are usually burnt on the outside and raw in the middle when I try.

I came across this recipe and thought it would be worth trying. They were tasty and mostly done without being burnt, but some were still crunchy. We decided this dish would work a lot better in the crockpot. Or else you could try boiling the potato slices for 5 minutes or so to pre-cook them before wrapping it all up in foil.

Saucy Potatoes

6 medium potatoes
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. grated parmesan or romano cheese
2 T. dried parsley
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. black pepper
1 small onion

Scrub potatoes really well, then slice into 1/4" slices. Place in a large pot, cover with hot water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and cover. Set aside while you prep the sauce.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, cheese, parsley, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper.

Peel the onion, then slice into thin rings or slices. Add to sauce.

Drain potatoes. Add to sauce. Toss gently to coat.

To grill: Divide potatoes between two large pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold up into flat packets. Grill over medium heat until potatoes are tender - 20-30 minutes. Makes two large packets.

For slow cooker: Dump the potato mixture into a large crockpot. Cook on low 3-4 hours, until potatoes are tender.

Serves 4-6 people.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Black Currant Jelly is da BOMB!

I picked my black currants. My little bush produced almost a gallon of berries. By themselves they weren't that sweet, but in jelly? Delicious!

So, if you're lucky enough to have fresh currants (or gooseberries or nanking cherries or anything similar), make some jelly. It's worth the time and effort. Here's my step-by-step process:

1. Pick the berries. Pretty self-explanatory.

2. Wash the berries. Pick out the spiders and slugs and other creepy crawlies. Get rid of the dead leaves and stems. Get them as clean as you can.

3. Dump them into a large pot. Add just enough water to cover the berries. Bring it to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat, cover, and let them sit for a couple of hours.

5. Use a big spoon and smash the berries. Don't worry too much about the seeds and skins and stuff, you want to free up as much juice and flavor as you can at this point.

6. Place a large colander over a large bowl. Once you've smashed the berries, pour the berry smash through the colander to strain out the seeds and skins and stuff. You want just the juice. Leave the colander over the bowl and let the juice keep dripping for an hour or so. Stir the berries every once in a while to help the juice get through.

7. Once you have the juice strained, measure it and figure out how much jelly you need to make. At this point, follow the directions on your pectin. I'm really liking the Ball pectin in the large jars. For jelly with that, you need 1 1/3 c. juice, 1 1/2 T powdered pectin, and 1 1/2 c. sugar for each pint of jelly. Don't make a batch larger than 7-8 pints, though. Even if you have a giant pot that won't boil over with that much juice and sugar in it, it's hard to get the pectin and sugar to completely dissolve and cook right. The jelly won't set right, so just do multiple batches if you have more than a couple of quarts of juice.

8. Figure out how many pints you are going to need, then add one. Put that many clean jars in a sink full of really hot water. (If you're using smaller jars, figure out how many you will need. I don't recommend jars larger than a pint for jelly. It doesn't set right in the quart jars.)

9. Once you have the juice measured out, stir in the pectin. Cook it over high heat to a full rolling boil, it should keep boiling even after you stir it. Dump in the sugar all at once. Cook and stir over high heat until it comes to a full boil again. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, move the jelly off the stove, and carefully pour into hot jars.

10. Wipe the rims of the jars clean, then seal and process following the directions for your altitude and your equipment. If you don't want to bother with this step, put the lids on the jars and let them cool on the counter. Once cool, refrigerate. Eat within a month or so.

Black currants make a wonderfully flavorful, deep red-purple jelly. I can't wait for next year and hopefully a whole lot currants.