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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Sloane Taylor

My friend Vickie was a marvelous cook, but she never measured her ingredients. A handful of this a pinch of that was her method. And every dish was delicious. Vickie actually created this recipe, but left it to me for amounts. After years of indulging myself, I decided this one was the best.

If you are inclined to fill out the menu, sautéed chicken breasts and a tomato salad go nicely with this dish.

Burnt Butter & Sage Pasta

2 cups curly pasta

8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, room temperature

6 – 10 sage leaves

Parmesan cheese, grated

Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside while you make the sauce.

Melt butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.

Add sage. Allow butter to brown. Watch carefully and stir often as once this starts to brown it changes quickly. Cook until butter reaches a medium caramel color. Remove sage leaves and discard.

Stir in pasta. Be sure to coat noodles well. Heat through.

Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane
Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.
To learn more about Taylor go to her website. Stay in touch on Blogger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available on Amazon.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The multi-talented Author/Artist Linda Lee Greene who brings us her latest

My friend Carol called me a few mornings ago to tell me she loved my latest two books. I had given her paperback copies of them for Christmas. During the conversation, she mentioned that she and Dick, her husband, were going to attend their grandson’s 16th birthday party later in the day. She was making deviled eggs to take along. I said to her, “You’ve given me an idea of a way to use some of the three cartons of eggs stacked up in my refrigerator.” Why I had three cartons of eggs in my refrigerator is another story I will not go into at this time. “Tell me your recipe,” I begged, making the excuse that it had been so long since I had made them that I simply forgot how to do it. Truth to tell, I am paranoid about boiling eggs. It is the reason I have avoided doing it for a coon’s age. And a further truth to tell is that I don’t know that I ever had made deviled eggs, again for the simple reason that boiling eggs terrifies me. I fibbed to her about it though, because no self-respecting female, if she wishes to remain a member in good standing of my particular circle of girlfriends, would ever admit to never having made deviled eggs. Such a thing is positively antithetical to the group’s creed.

Ever enthusiastic about sharing her recipes with any interested party, Carol spilled forth, “Oh! Well, you have to make my recipe. Actually, it’s my mom’s recipe. Anyway, you will love it. But after you boil the eggs, let them sit in the hot water for a few minutes. And then put them in cold water to cool down before you peel them.” She rattled off the actual recipe. We hung up, and I hurried to my kitchen.

Carol’s recipe calls for mayonnaise, cane sugar, and white vinegar. I knew right away I would have to substitute those ingredients to make the recipe Keto-with-a-kick-friendly. First though, I had to tackle hard-boiling the eggs. I’ll call Karen and ask her, I whispered in my mind. My friend Karen almost always answers her phone right away. “Quick question! How long do you boil eggs for deviled eggs? It’s been so long since I’ve done it, I forget,” I lied and then pumped Karen as soon as she said, “Hello”. “I boil mine for ten minutes,” she responded. I believed her, because Karen makes deviled eggs rather often. Karen’s membership in our circle is never in jeopardy. “Thanks. I’ll call you later,” I said and hung up.

I placed a dozen eggs in a pan, covered them with cold water, and set the pan over high heat for ten minutes. And as instructed by Carol, I turned off the flame and let them sit in the hot bath for about five more minutes. I poured them into a colander and then returned them to the pan, covering them with cold water. After about ten minutes, I decided to start peeling the shells off them. I cracked the shell all around an egg and held it under the faucet of cold running water. That darn egg just would not give up its shell. Memories of other failed attempts to peel hard-boiled eggs flooded my mind. An angel of boiling eggs felt sorry for me I guess and whispered in my ear, “Eggs have to be pretty darn cold before they will let you peel them nicely. Put them back in another cold bath, and be patient!” I did as I was told, but not exactly as I was told, apparently, because my second attempt at peeling them was almost as failed as the first. “Okay, I guess you need another cold bath.” I was speaking out loud to the eggs by then. I drained the water of the second cold bath and filled the pan with a third cold bath. That time, I waited a good long time until those darn eggs were good and cold. And wallah! They finally let me peel them.

A couple of them were a little stubborn, though. They looked like pallid orbs of Swiss cheese by the time I finished manhandling them. There was no way they would show well on the plate. I sprinkled them with a little salt and scarfed them down for my lunch. 😊

Keto-with-a-Kick Deviled Eggs

12 eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise made with olive oil

¼ cup spicy brown mustard

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 packet (o.o7 oz) Stevia (sugar substitute)

Salt and pepper to taste

Your favorite spices, optional

Minced capers for more kick, optional

Boil eggs and peel them as instructed above. Cut each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop out yolks then place in a mixing bowl.

Arrange whites onto a plate.

Mash yolks with a fork then add mayo, mustard, vinegar, Stevia, salt, pepper, and optional spices.

Spoon mixture into whites and enjoy!

Here’s a peek at multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene’s latest book, Garden of the Spirits of the Pots, A Spiritual Odyssey. It is a blend of visionary and inspirational fiction with a touch of romance. The story unfolds as ex-pat American Nicholas Plato journeys into parts unknown, both within himself and his adopted home of Sydney, Australia. In the end, the odyssey reveals to him his true purpose for living. The novella is available in eBook and paperback.

Driven by a deathly thirst, he stops. A strange little brown man materializes out of nowhere and introduces himself merely as ‘Potter,’ and welcomes Nicholas to his ‘Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.’ Although Nicholas has never laid eyes on Potter, the man seems to have expected Nicholas at his bizarre habitation and displays knowledge about him that nobody has any right to possess. Just who is this mysterious Aboriginal potter?

Although they are as mismatched as two persons can be, a strangely inevitable friendship takes hold between them. It is a relationship that can only be directed by an unseen hand bent on setting Nicholas on a mystifying voyage of self-discovery and Potter on revelations of universal certainties.

A blend of visionary and inspirational fiction, and a touch of romance, this is a tale of Nicholas’ journey into parts unknown, both within his adopted home and himself, a quest that in the end leads him to his true purpose for living.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene describes her life as a telescope that when trained on her past reveals how each piece of it, whether good or bad or in-between, was necessary in the unfoldment of her fine art and literary paths.

Greene moved from farm-girl to city-girl; dance instructor to wife, mother, and homemaker; divorcee to single-working-mom and adult-college-student; and interior designer to multi-award-winning artist and author, essayist, and blogger. It was decades of challenging life experiences and debilitating, chronic illness that gave birth to her dormant flair for art and writing. Greene was three days shy of her fifty-seventh birthday when her creative spirit took a hold of her.

She found her way to her lonely easel soon thereafter. Since then Greene has accepted commissions and displayed her artwork in shows and galleries in and around the USA. She is also a member of artist and writer associations.

Visit Linda on her blog and join her on Facebook.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The charming Sharon Ledwith brings us her latest find from researching history plus a delicious recipe.

Y’all ready to set the flo’? Say what? Not sure what I’m talking about? You’re not alone. I had no idea what “set the flo’” meant until digging into the research I needed to bring readers into my point-of-view character Drake Bailey’s world in the third book of The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series. Set in 1855, during the antebellum period in Georgia, Drake discovers that it’s not the best place for an African American time traveler, but he endures and lives to tell his tale.

Plantation slaves in the deep south of America weren’t given many pleasures in their hard lives. Author Julius Lester sums it up beautifully when he wrote in his book, To Be A Slave, “The prayer meetings, the parties, and the holidays did not make being a slave pleasurable. Nothing could do that, but whatever pleasure the slave was able to provide for himself was a remarkable testimony to the ability to retain humanity under the most inhuman conditions.” One of those small pleasures was to set the flo’ or set de flo’—a dance style competition—where the best couple or single dancer won a cake through their creative jig.

In The Last Timekeeper and the Noble Slave, I wrote a cakewalk scene during the slaves’ Good Friday celebration. My interpretation of a set the flo’ dancing contest involves an elder slave drawing a circle on the dirt floor with a charred corn cob. The rules require the dancers not to step outside the circle or they’ll be disqualified. Next, the fiddler would call out to begin the competition. Since I had slave couples compete, the man and woman would bow to one another, then the woman placed her foot on her partner’s knee, so he could tie her shoelace. Traditional cakewalk dance contests had the woman put her hands on her hips while the man rolls his eyes and grins before they started dancing. I combined both techniques to break the tension and create the necessary humor in the scene.

Strutting was an element always present in set the flo’ dancing, and there were different styles, such as water dances. As you may have guessed, this jig demanded the dancer keep a glass or pail of water on his or her head and see how many kinds of steps they could make without spilling the water. Um, no thanks. Already dressed in their best clothes, why tempt fate? The fluid and graceful steps of the dance may have given rise to the colloquialism that something accomplished with ease is a ‘cakewalk’, but the life of a slave was far from that.

However, there is an interesting element with the history of this dance. A firsthand account from ex-slaves interviewed during the 1930’s shares that the cakewalk was meant to covertly mock their owners without getting punished, through the signals and expression of dance. Now that’s what I call getting their just desserts!

Speaking of desserts…

What’s better than a 12-slice cheesecake to serve at your next family gathering or function? Getting to choose a mini version of your favorite cheesecake and indulge without the guilt of having a large piece. Enter Cheesecake Shots…

Cheesecake Shots

1 cup Graham Crumbs

¼ cup butter, melted

2 packages (250 g/8.82 ounces each) Brick Cream Cheese, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

½ cup sour cream

Suggested Toppings

⅓ cup caramel ice cream topping and 1 bar (100 g/3.52 ounces) Toblerone Swiss Milk Chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 can of cherry or blueberry pie filling

⅓ cup caramel ice cream topping and pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Mix crumbs and butter; press into bottom of 12-count muffin pan (1 tablespoon in each cup).

Beat cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour a ¼ cup of mixture over crust in each cup.

Bake 18 – 22 minutes or until center is almost set. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Depending on what you choose for a topping: spread caramel topping over cheesecake just before serving and garnish with chopped chocolate or pecan halves, or add a dollop of your favorite pie filling, and enjoy!

While you’re waiting for the cheesecake shots to set in the fridge, here’s a taste of The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave available for purchase on all your online bookstores.

True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

Eleven-year-old Drake Bailey is an analytical thinker and the genius of the Timekeeper crew. However, no logic or mathematical acumen can change the color of his skin, or prepare him for this third Timekeeper mission in antebellum Georgia. To survive, Drake must learn to play the role of a plantation slave and when confronted with the brutality, hatred, and racism of the deep south, he’ll have to strategically keep one move ahead of his sadistic captors to ensure his lineage continues.

In a dark world of Voodoo, zombies, and ritualistic sacrifice, the Timekeepers must ensure a royal bloodline survives. Can Drake remove both literal and figurative chains to save both himself and a devout slave girl from a terrible fate? If he can’t summon the necessary courage, humanity could stand to lose one of its greatest leaders.

Amazon Buy Link

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The charming Helen Carpenter who brings us her guaranteed recipe to satisfy the demands of your sweet tooth.

You may want to double the batch then freeze the extra for the next time the sweet craving gremlin attacks you.

Mini Brownies
Non-stick spray
12-cup mini muffin pan
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
1 egg
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Stir until smooth. (Your microwave may take up to a minute longer. Just beware that chocolate chips will retain their shape even when melted, and if you nuke them too long, they’ll burn. Not that we would know from personal experience or anything.)

Mix cocoa and molasses into the melted chocolate. (What? You don’t have molasses? Okay. Use a tablespoon of water instead.)

Add vanilla, flour, and egg, and mix well. Add sugars and mix well.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray, then spoon the batter into the cups, dividing evenly.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Tops of brownies will be puffy. (Don’t overcook or the brownies will be too dry. That’s what we’ve heard, anyway.)

Cool ten minutes, then transfer brownies from the muffin pan to wire racks. The puffy tops will flatten as the brownies cool (So the instructions say. We’ve never actually waited that long.).

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A meal recipe from Janis Lane aka Emma Lane who brings us her easy to prepare Baked Ham with Raisin Sauce.

Nothing tastes better at Easter then baked ham. Therefore, this is the perfect time of the year to share one of my favorite meals with you. The recipes are easy to prepare and are a wonderful combination of flavors that will have your family and friends asking for seconds.

Baked Ham with Raisin Sauce

1 ham (Cured) bone in or out by choice

Whole cloves

1 can pineapple rings, reserve juice

Water

1 or 2 dashes of bourbon or white wine, optional

Maraschino cherries to decorate, optional

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Score ham ⅛ inch deep. Place 1 clove in each square. Use a toothpick to hang pineapple rings around the ham. Don’t forget the sides!

Cover bottom of a large pan with ¼ inch of water, also bourbon or wine if you’re using it.

Add ham then cover with aluminum foil to avoid drying out. Remove foil twenty minutes before serving.

Cook 10 minutes per pound or until warmed through. Check often to avoid over cooking.

Insert cherries into pineapple rings at serving time.

Spicy Southern Raisin Sauce

2 tbsp. flour

2 tbsp. sugar

1 pinch salt

⅓ cup dried raisons

¼ cup water

1 pinch powered cloves

⅛ tsp. powdered cinnamon

3 tbsp. vinegar

1 tbsp. butter

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a small saucepan. Add raisins and water. Simmer a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add spices, vinegar, and butter; blend well. Ready to serve over ham slices.

Cut pineapple rings in half. Add pineapple and cherries to the ham platter when you serve.

Acorn Squash

¼ squash per person

1 tsp. butter per squash quarter, softened

1 heaping tsp. brown sugar per squash quarter

Reserved pineapple juice

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Mix butter, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons pineapple juice in a small bowl.

Microwave squash or bake in the oven until tender. This can be done earlier in the day. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Quarter and arrange in ovenproof casserole dish.

Add brown sugar mix to center of each quartered squash slice. Warm on low heat in oven until ready to serve.

Marinated Raw Asparagus

3 spears per person

1 bottle spicy Italian salad dressing

Wash asparagus and place in casserole dish. Cover spears with spicy Italian salad dressing or your favorite type. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove spears from dressing then set on decretive platter. Use tongs to serve.

Here is a peek at my latest cozy mystery for your reading enjoyment.

When is it not fun to be a blond?

What happens when a blond beauty hits town like a tornado stirring up memories and causing turmoil? Detective Kevin Fowler and his wife, the former Beverly Hampton, owner of the local newspaper, are settling into blissful married life. Although Beverly is sanguine over the demand on Kevin’s time by the good people of Hubbard, she is more than dubious when his duties include the escort of a drop-dead gorgeous female from his past.

There is some concern over the persistent vandalism of residential mailboxes, but an infamous arsonist has decided peaceful but dull Hubbard would make a great place from which to operate. He brazenly locates down the block from the detective and his wife.

What bait and tackle shop in the village has a dual purpose? Kevin ponders why two goons have invaded town shooting at and attempting to kidnap and murder three women. A state patrolman, aptly nick named Rooster, teases Fowler at the riotous scene of a traffic accident where the press, not the police, wins the day.

Another mystery and adventure with a satisfying ending unfolds in peaceful Hubbard, New York, small-town Americana, where Detective Kevin Fowler keeps an ever-vigilant watch.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma Lane, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The always interesting Stella May who brings us her latest recipe for salmon.

Honestly, I don’t like to cook fish, especially salmon, but this recipe almost cooks itself. Yes, it’s that easy. This recipe works great with a whole fillet, individual ones, or steaks. Give it a try.

Baked Salmon in Lemon Juice
1 salmon fillet
1 or 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste, optional

Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

Wash and dry salmon. If you use a whole fillet, cut into serving size pieces for easier handling. Lay fish into any ovenproof dish that has a cover or use an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet then cover the salmon with heavy aluminum foil.

Pour fresh squeezed lemon juice over fish. It must be half covered in liquid. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

You can sprinkle salt and pepper on before you bake the fish, but I prefer to cook it without.

And that’s it. Hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does.

Here is a peek at my latest time travel novel for your reading pleasure.

One key unlocks the love of a lifetime…but could also break her heart.

Nika Morris’s sixth sense has helped build a successful business, lovingly restoring and reselling historic homes on Florida’s Amelia Island. But there’s one forlorn, neglected relic that’s pulled at her from the moment she saw it. The century-old Coleman house.

Quite unexpectedly, the house is handed to her on a silver platter—along with a mysterious letter, postmarked 1909, yet addressed personally to Nika. Its cryptic message: Find the key. You know where it is. Hurry, for goodness sake!

The message triggers an irresistible drive to find that key. When she does, one twist in an old grandfather clock throws her back in time, straight into the arms of deliciously, devilishly handsome Elijah Coleman.

Swept up in a journey of a lifetime, Nika finds herself falling in love with Eli—and with the family and friends that inhabit a time not even her vivid imagination could have conjured. But in one desperate moment of homesickness, she makes a decision that will not only alter the course of more than one life, but break her heart.

’Til Time Do Us Part is available in Kindle and Paperback at AMAZON.

Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website.

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business.

Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Chef Sloane Taylor who brings us her latest meal.

A dish fit for a king that takes a little time but is well worth it. Prep more chops then freeze them to finish cooking for another meal.

Stuffed Pork Chops

2 loin chops, boneless

Stuffing, recipe below

1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil

½ cup (120ml) chicken stock

4 toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C).

Slice a deep pocket in each chop. Pack in stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold pocket closed as much as possible by inserting down through both layers of meat at one end then up as close as possible. You’ll use 2 toothpicks per chop.

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on each side 2 – 3 minutes.

Pour stock into an ovenproof dish. Lay chops in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes.

Stuffing

This recipe makes more than you’ll use for the pork chops but it freezes well to use with other meals.

1 package bread stuffing cubes, plain or seasoned

½ lb. (250g) breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk

8 tbsp. (1 stick) (114g) butter

1 celery rib, chopped½ med. onion, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried sage

1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried thyme

2 cups (450ml) chicken stock, maybe a little more

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl.

Fry sausage in a medium-sized frying pan, breaking meat into small chunks, until no longer pink. Add sausage and its juice to bread cubes.

Melt butter in same skillet. Add celery and onion when the foam subsides. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until translucent, be careful not to let it brown. Add vegetables with all their juices to the bread cubes. Mix well.

Pour egg onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well.

Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy.

To Bake as a Side Dish

Spoon mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Do not pack it in. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate stuffing until you are ready to bake it, but no longer than two days.

To Freeze

Spoon the mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freezer no longer than 3 months. I use several sandwich bags that serve 2.

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come close to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

To learn more about Taylor go to her website. Stay in touch on Blogger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available on Amazon.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The idea of using the other appliance in your kitchen from Helen Carpenter who brings us her recipe for oven-baked fish and Hush Puppies.

Fellow cooks, the time is now—the time to flop your fish out of the frying pan and into the oven, that is. Sure, deep-fried candy bars have a place in every healthy diet. But on days besides Fryday, you might want to make a meal using that other appliance that takes up space in your kitchen.

You can start with this oven-baked version of a recipe that’s usually fried. We promise the end result is every bit as delicious. And remember, you can always deep-fry a Twinkie for dessert.

Baked Fish and Hush Puppies

3 pounds fresh fish fillets or strips (we used pollock)
2 tbsp. butter
½ box Cajun seafood fry mix or fish seasoning mix of your choice (or less spicy version, use ¼ of a box)

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Set baking pan in oven until the pan is warm (not hot). Remove pan from oven. Put butter on pan, let melt and spread over pan.

Pour Cajun seasoning mix in a large plastic bag. Add fish and then shake gently to coat evenly. Remove fish from bag, place on buttered pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish is flaky.

Hush Puppies

For the baked hush puppies (makes 12 mini pups)
Cooking spray
⅔ cup cornmeal
⅓ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
⅓ cup coconut milk
1 egg
1 tbsp. oil

While the fish is baking, coat a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

Measure dry ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork. Add wet ingredients and stir with fork until blended. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin.

Remove the fish from the oven and turn the oven up to 450°F.

Bake the hush puppies for 10 minutes or until a tester pick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Serve fish and hush puppies with ready-made coleslaw.

Tips and Tricks

If the fish you’re using is not moist, dipping the fillets into milk or water before coating with seasoning will help the seasoning mix stick.

For the hush puppy recipe, you can substitute full-fat cow milk for the coconut milk.

Coleslaw helps cut the effect of the spiciness of the Cajun seasoning on your tongue, but potato salad is a good substitute.

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates every day, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Author Leigh Goff who shares with us about a witch’s supernatural spirit companion.

A witch’s familiar is her lucky charm. What is a familiar or a familiar spirit? A familiar is a witch’s mascot; her supernatural spirit companion that takes the form of an animal, but an animal with its own magical powers. This special creature is a guardian and protector, lending support to its witch when needed and, if she is young, guiding her as she comes into her powers.

In witch lore, the creature is usually represented by the oh-so-clever black cat, but the familiar takes a form that best represents the individual nature of the witch. Dogs, birds, and mice are also popular familiars. A familiar can be as small as a butterfly or as big as an elephant. Horses make excellent familiars, too. As an author who writes about witches, I am partial to ravens and crows. They are protective, intelligent birds known for being excellent messengers.

Famous familiars include…Thackery Binx cat of Hocus Pocus, Salem Saberhagen from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Perdu the magical raven in The Witches of New York. I feature Hannah’s beautiful white raven familiar on the cover of Bewitching Hannah. He is her brave messenger, Siris; a name that is a magical palindrome like Hannah.

Today, many witches and Wiccan practitioners have adopted the idea of having a supernatural servant spirit and guardian. Familiars serve as faithful protectors of a witch and her powers. Most importantly, they are loyal to the end.

Speaking of lucky charms, if you’re looking for a sweet treat to pair with one of my bewitching novels, I am including a super simple recipe from Delish.com below.

Enjoy!

Best Lucky Charms Treats

½ cup (1 stick) butter, plus more for pan

1 (12-oz.) bag mini marshmallows

½ tsp. kosher salt

6 cup Lucky Charms

Grease a 9″-x-9″ baking dish with butter. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows and salt and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in Lucky Charms.

Pour into pan and smooth top, being careful not to pack cereal too tightly into prepared dish. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Here is a little from my paranormal fantasy for your reading pleasure.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a royal legacy of dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead.

Engaged in a deadly game and not knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

EXCERPT
The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

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Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Helen Carpenter
who brings us an award winning cupcake recipe with a story.

The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume.

Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park.

She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce.

She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool.

Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand.

After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers.

When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon.

Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste.

Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd.

There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day.
But she didn’t think so.

Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Batter
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool.

Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick.

Fold chopped apple pieces into batter.

Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups.

Bake 20 minutes.

Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Frosting
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt.

Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils.

Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted.

Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes.

For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates every day, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .

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