Monday, December 11, 2017

Making a Holiday Happening Happen


The holidays are in full swing. From Halloween on it seems there is some food centered gathering or happening. Don’t get stressed if you are hosting. Instead, using careful planning and in-advance preparations, you can be the Perle Mesta of your neighborhood. (And if you know who I’m referring to, welcome to my generation!)

And as an added benefit, as a writer, I can collect dialogue bits, imagine someone face-planting into the punch, or a dead body on the kitchen floor. Parties like this are fodder for authors! But I digress!

To plan how much food to make, my rule of thumb is to assume each guest will eat one or two of each dish offered and will sample the sweets so I make a lot of mini dessert options. This column focuses on a Happy Hour menu.

For ideas beyond these check the archives of this blog for my Month-of Recipes I produce each February. In 2014, I did at least one appetizer recipe each day of February. In 2015, I shared at least one mini-dessert recipe each day. Add to your repertoire by reading those.

But let’s face it, they’re coming to be with you and not to evaluate the food. Much of this can be done a day or two in advance and reheated if necessary. But keep it plentiful, colorful, and easy on you and they’ll be impressed and you won’t be stressed.

Throw in a couple of prepared items like the taquitos and/or egg rolls from frozen section of the store. There also are other items you might like. Start in the frozen section first then fill in with some of these:

Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Thaw shrimp
Mix 1 cup catsup with the juice of half a lemon and 2-4 tablespoons horseradish (adjust to your taste). Stir. Let sit for a couple of hours before dipping in the shrimp.

Meatballs
Bag of frozen meatballs and jar of red pepper jelly
Coat meatballs in zipper bag. Cook on low in microwave for four hours.

Mushrooms with Stuffing
Buy the boxed stuffing mix and prepare as directed but put in another two tablespoons butter. Take the stem out of mushrooms and fill with stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sharon’s Bruschetta
3 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
10 basil leaves cut in ribbons
2 T olive oil
Asiago cheese
1 loaf refrigerator French bread baked then cut into 18 (or so) slices.

In small bowl mix everything but oil, cheese, and bread.
Brush bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle on some cheese.
Bake in 350 degree oven for a few minutes until cheese begins to melt.
Remove from oven and spoon on tomato mixture. Sprinkle top with more cheese.

Kielbasa
Cut into rounds about 1/2” thick and brown on both sides. Have a dish of toothpicks for serving.

Cheese Platter
Buy the box of crackers with different kinds of crackers. Slice up a variety of  interesting cheeses paired with a bowl of grapes.

Veggies and Dip
Put a bowl in the middle of a platter and fill with dressing (ranch or something else).
Cover the platter with a broccoli base cut into bite size pieces.
On top of the broccoli, dot the surface with cherry tomatoes and a few cauliflower pieces. At the bottom, make a bow from red bell pepper. It will look like a wreath!

Puff Pastry Desserts
Get a box of puff pastry sheets and one of 24 puff pastry cups.

Bake the puff pastry cups and when cool put a teaspoon of fig jam (or other favorite) into the cup. Top with blue cheese crumbles.

Thaw one (or both) puff pastry sheets. Open up on pastry mat and roll thinner.
Spread a layer of Nutella over the top but not all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.
Roll up each pastry sheet tightly and place seam side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until nicely browned.
When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 1” slices for serving.

Fruit and Cake
Bowl of kiwi and strawberries to spoon over bought pound/angelfood cake crumbles in a shot or liqueur glass

Candy Pretzel Rods
24 rod pretzels, 1 c choc chips, 1 cup white choc chips, 2T oil (divided), sprinkles or other toppings
Melt each chocolate in its own bowl and add oil. Stir to blend.
Dip one end of pretzel rods into chocolate. Roll in sprinkles (or crushed candy cane or other topping). Chill.

Holiday appropriate drinks.
Make one seasonal drink option, like eggnog (both naughty and nice) or peppermint martini, and offer wine, beer, and soft drinks rather than a full bar. Everyone serves him or herself.

Here’s an interesting sounding peppermint martini, if you’re into alcohol. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/230306/peppermint-martini/

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, food, and fun!

If you liked this post, I’d be appreciative if you’d share! Thanks!

Facebook: Are you throwing a holiday shindig? Need help with quick and easy foods to serve? Try these ideas for a simple affair. http://bit.ly/2jiHO8n

Twitter: Throwing a #holiday party is easy with these #recipes from @Good2Tweat http://bit.ly/2jiHO8n

Monday, December 4, 2017

The After


As I worked on Tequila Mockingbird, book five in my current culinary mystery series, for National Novel Writing Month, I knew the series was nearing an end. Book six, Cooks in the Can, will conclude the adventures of personal chefs Alli and Gina in Glendale, Arizona.

So what’s in The After?

I still want to write culinary mysteries, but I am switching it up by moving Alli and Evan to Alaska and having Alli work for a couple of small businesses there. A common joke in Alaska is that Alaska is home to both the wanted and the unwanted. Perfect spot for the cop Evan, right?

Their small Alaska town will be populated with a variety of quirky folk, some of whom run small businesses in the town. In this series, the first book will feature Alli, but other books will have her as a supporting character with other small business owners being the focus. I’m not sure how to avoid the Cabot Cove Syndrome yet, but I’ll figure it out.

I already have some titles for these “murders with taste”, but for me, that’s no big deal. Punny titles pop into my head all the time. What do you think about these to pick from: Baked Alaska, Go with the Floe, Chocolate Moose, Dead and Breakfast, Mint to Be, Arsenic and Old Mace, Thyme to Die, Duds and Suds, and Iced? More are occurring to me all the time, so who knows which ones will be in this series.

My plan, at this point, is to create a small town in Alaska with a variety of quirky characters, each of whom runs a small business in town. Each book in the series will have Alli helping to solve the mystery created around the small business and its owner.

The titles above may have tipped you that one small business owner, Maeve, runs an herb shop. She supplies residents and area restaurants with spices and herbs, but a more lucrative component is her salves and infusions made with marijuana. That keeps her bottom line healthy.

Riley is the owner of the local bed and breakfast, Riley’s Roost—Where you rise and shine! She’s the self-appointed mayor and knows everything about everybody in the town. But she’s a busybody with a heart.

Another resident is Bud, the owner of Bud’s Duds ‘n’ Suds, the local bar that has the only laundromat for 50 miles. He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in the town, and is privy to secrets told by inebriated customers.

I need a bakery, a diner, and a local newspaper still. And, of course, there is the realtor who gets into lots of spaces. Populating a town is a challenge and great fun!

As to recipes—this is a culinary mystery series, of course—rhubarb is very big in Alaska, so there will be several recipes using the ubiquitous plant, like this recipe from the University of Alaska:

Easy Rhubarb Jam    Yields 2 pints
5 cups rhubarb
3 cups sugar
3 ounce package strawberry-flavored gelatin

Combine rhubarb and sugar and let stand one hour.

Boil until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the strawberry flavored gelatin and stir until dissolved.

Let cool. Pour into freezer containers for storing in freezer or jars
for storing in refrigerator.

Jam should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than 2 weeks. Leave ½ inch
headspace.

Also, salmon is the lifeblood of Alaska, so several salmon recipes will be featured, including this salmon caviar one from an Alaskan friend of mine, Sandy Peacock that she received from her Alaskan friend, Chi Dragich. Thanks to them for sharing this absolutely delicious recipe. I ate it like a grizzly bear!

Salmon Caviar     Yields 2 quarts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon saki
1-3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Dashi seasoning
Salmon roe from one salmon

Open the skein, flatten on wire rack, rubbing back and forth to separate eggs.

Flush with cold water, in rectangular plastic tubs, multiple times until water is clear.

Pick out bits of egg, veins, etc. Set in strainer to dry. Color of eggs will return and appear uniform.

In large bowl, mix well all ingredients except salmon roe.

Fold in eggs to seasoning mixture.

Place in sterile jars and refrigerate for up to 3-4 weeks.

Serve on crackers with cream cheese.


What do you think? Would you pick up a culinary mystery series set in The Last Frontier? Please share this post. Thanks!

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore is planning her next culinary mystery series. This one will be set in Alaska. Check out what’s on the horizon. Recipes included. http://bit.ly/2ASIx7M

Twitter: @good2tweat shares two #recipes from her next culinary mystery series set in Alaska. http://bit.ly/2ASIx7M

Monday, November 27, 2017

There is Only One Genre: Mystery


I’ve heard it said that all novels are mysteries, in a broad sense.

And I can see some of the reasoning. If an engaging novel is about change from page one to the end of the book, and if an engaging novel requires obstacles to overcome, then how those happen to an unsuspecting character do constitute a kind of mystery.

None of us knows what is coming next. Even when we think we know, there are surprises, sometimes presaged by clues. Sometimes not. In real life. But in novels, the surprises and changes and obstacles are always set up by the author. Out of the blue doesn’t happen in novels as it might in real life.

My online dictionary lists three examples in its first definition:
something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain
 the condition or quality of being secret, strange, or difficult to explain
 a person or thing whose identity or nature is puzzling or unknown

See how that does fit, that all novels are mysteries?

Not traditional mysteries where a crime has occurred, necessarily, but a puzzle to unravel. A problem to be resolved. A secret to be uncovered. Explanations to reveal. Characters to understand.

So writers, no matter what genre you thought you wrote, welcome to my world, mystery writer.

Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments. And if you disagree, convince me, if you can!

Did you find this intriguing? Let your social media outlets know about the post.

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore posits that all novels are actually mysteries, ultimately. Read her argument see if you agree. http://bit.ly/2k3PI5x

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Monday, November 20, 2017

No Rest for the NaNos


This week is the All-American Gorge Fest known by some as Thanksgiving. Most of you will be slaving away over preparations for The Feast. NaNos, however, get no rest. Must. Crank. Out. Words.

Oh, sure, we’ll join the family to gulp down the turkey and gravy. You gotta be polite to family and friends. I suggested making a Turkey Dinner Shake so I could keep writing, but my family nixed it. They want me, for some odd reason, to join them at the table this Thursday. It could take hours to eat the menu my future daughter-in-law has planned. What was she thinking? Well, she’s new to the family, so I cut her some slack.

But what is a NaNo to do? Get up earlier. Put in seat time before called to cooking duty. And record your pathetic word count for the day. (Gotta get the badge for updating the word count 30 days in a row!)

You tell yourself that you’ll make up the deficit. That low word counts for thirteen days (in my case) won’t be a big deal. All you have to do is write like crazy once these family obligations cease.

That’s what you tell yourself because you blew through your banked words long since. And you have to tell yourself something, or you’d quit.

Given that you might be lying to yourself, and that you’ll never recover from the mounting word count deficit, you really ought to give in.

Relax. Play games. Laugh a lot. Enjoy Thanksgiving. NaNo isn’t really LIFE. Really. Right?


Funny? Please share on your social media outlets.

Facebook: Ready for a little humor with that turkey, NaNoWriMos? Relax. The world won’t end if we take a day break. http://bit.ly/2zNbNZV

Twitter: Ready for a little humor with that turkey, #NaNoWriMos? Relax. The world won’t end if we take a day break. http://bit.ly/2zNbNZV

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It's a Wrap, Er, That is, a RAP


I told you I’d keep you apprised vis-à-vis the search for a new publisher. Well, it’s happened in a miraculous sort of way. Long story that began more than a year ago. Maybe we can get into it over a root beer someday.

But for now, I am pleased to announce that as of November 7th, I signed with Red Adept Publishing (RAP) to publish my culinary mystery. This small press in North Carolina has over sixty authors and has published more than 100 books in five years. Several authors have made the USA Today best sellers list.

Impressive, yes?

I’ll keep you up with publishing plans as they progress. But I am so excited to be part of this vibrant group of authors and the amazing owner/publisher.

One of the things owner/publisher Lynn McNamee asked us to consider doing is a newsletter to our fans. Would you consider subscribing to a monthly newsletter with content that ranges from mystery information (my books, mystery reviews, etc.) to food (recipes, cooking tips, etc.)? Here is the picture for the top of the newsletter. What do you think?


She also suggested producing some Facetime videos. I’m learning how to do that, too. Great opportunities appear when change happen. 

What content would you like to see in videos and a newsletter? I am open to your ideas! After all, it's for you!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Keeping the Pace


On another of my blogs, I wrote about PlotOber and planning the fifth in my culinary mystery series so the writing of it in November for National Novel Writing Month will go more smoothly.

Well, I’m into November, one-fifth of the way through today, and by the end of the day I need to have logged a minimum of 10,002 words to be on track to finish November 30th with 50,000 words.

I’ll make it. Last night I recorded a word total of 8356, slightly over the 8335 that I needed. Pretty darn good, with weeklong company, if you ask me.

I started strong, as I always do. That story has been percolating for months and I focused the thoughts by using two magic elements: my Plotober massive planning elements and by brainstorming with my two critique groups. My crit partners have AMAZING minds! Have I said how lucky I am to have them part of my writer’s life?

Here’s a peek at my time tracker to-date. The far right column is the minimum total number of words I need to have written to keep on track for NaNoWriMo. I got a strong start, “banking” words, so to speak for when I couldn’t write much.

Note, for example in the second column, that I had three days when I couldn’t make my minimum 1667 words for those days. Company. You gotta love ‘em, but there is a toll. My cushion of banked words let me enjoy my time with her.

Falling behind is inevitable, if my past years are predictive. But it is not fatal. I will just need to write more words on other days to catch up. She leaves today, so this afternoon maybe I can bank some more for the other days I’ll not write much if anything.

Have I mentioned that we are traveling for Thanksgiving this year? Again.

Each year I have about ten days of limited productivity due to company and travel. So I just have to write harder on those days that aren’t committed to fun, food, and family. I’ve got this!


2017 NaNoWriMo Time Tracker
TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD
Book 5 “Dinner is Served”

Date
Daily Words/Pages Total
Running Total
Minimum Running Total
Nov. 1
2228/7
2228
1667
Nov. 2
2886/19
5114
3334
Nov. 3
1563/25
6677
5001
Nov. 4
725/28
7402
6668
Nov. 5
954/32
8356
8335
Nov. 6


10,002

Monday, October 30, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Merry-Go-Round is about to Open



Some call it NaNovember. Some call it #$*&!^%. Or perhaps they use the more popular NaNoWriMo.

No matter what label (epithet?) you use, National Novel Writing Month is a time to remember. And dread. And anticipate. And gleefully romp around in.

Re this blog, likely, as November progresses, I will not have long posts, just short ones and updates on progress once NaNo begins on November 1st.

I will dual post some days on “Write Away” (my writing issues blog) since the posts will be about my new culinary mystery and the writing process. Hey, that way you only have to read one blog and get credit for two this month!

I rarely struggled with planning my culinary mysteries in the past, but this one was difficult for me. I had trouble imagining, at first, my 10 key events (and ended up with 11 weak ones), and other elements that I use when planning my mysteries. Why is that, I asked myself as the deadline approached and I didn’t have a single scene card done?

I was scared.

What if I was dried up with no more stories to tell and only clever titles to toss out? What if I had a great premise and concept but not enough stuffing to prop up the saggy, soggy middle.

Where’s the tension? What are the characters’ motivations? Omigosh, “stuffingf” like that was missing. Big problem when you’re writing a mystery.

Enter a couple of brainstorm sessions with fab crit partner Sandy Bremser, and voila. I broke through the fear. We identified the major flaw (there are numerous big other ones we found, too) and brainstormed fixes. After the first session, I generated 6 scene cards. I got in another 10 after the second session. I am nearly at the halfway point (I usually create ~40 scene cards).

Now I know how the novel starts and how it ends, and I moved what I thought was a key scene in the middle to earlier so I could have a scene there that has much more tension. I created a bad guy, because, well, I didn’t have one before. Wow, Sandy! Thanks so much.

So still behinder than I’ve ever been at this point in my NaNovember PlotOber planning sessions, but I can do this. I will have those scene cards done before Wednesday morning. And, for the kind of writer I am, that is a huge relief.

Bring it!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Alaska: Go with the Floe


I am thinking about, making notes on, and gathering data about settings for a new culinary mystery series set in Alaska. I have another post planned later this year that will tell some of my plans, but for right now, I want to share some recipes that might be in that series.

Thinking Alaska is cold, I might include some of my frozen confections desserts. It’s never too cold for ice cream, right?

Here are a few of them that you might enjoy yourself. Not that I don’t want you to buy the books when they come out, but a little teaser might entice you to look for them later on. By the way, by “later on”, I really do mean “later on”. It will be a few years before this series hits Amazon!

Remember, I don’t cook hard. These are easy peasy. All of these recipes make a bit more than one quart.

Vanilla Ice Cream
1/2 cup milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2-3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into the ice cream tub for processing per your machine’s instructions.

Notes:
If you’d like, add nuts, chocolate chips, crushed candy bars or other favorite additives when the ice cream is close to done.

Sometimes I substitute a can of dulce de leche in lieu of the sweetened condensed milk to make a caramel ice cream. Add some sea salt toward the end for salted caramel ice cream, one of my favorites. Yum!


Eggnog Ice Cream
2 cups of good quality eggnog
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into the ice cream tub for processing per your machine’s instructions.

Note:
A splash of rum and a sprinkle of cinnamon over the top before serving takes this dessert over the top!


Brownie Ice Cream (very, very rich)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk
1 box brownie mix
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I use black cocoa for a richer flavor but any is okay)
pinch of salt

Whisk all together and let sit in refrigerator overnight. Pour into the tub and process per machine instructions.

Notes:
I always add nuts because brownies always have nuts, don’t they?

For the holidays, add broken candy canes for a minty-chocolate special treat!


Chocolate Frosty (tastes just like Wendy's)
1 quart chocolate milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Whisk together then process in ice cream machine per directions. Served immediately after processing, this is smoothie-like in texture. If you put it into the freezer, you get a hard ice cream.

Note:
The better the quality chocolate milk you use, the better the texture and flavor. Spring for the good stuff!


I always throw my over-ripe bananas into the freezer, for this “ice cream” or banana bread or to make choco-nut banana bites. This recipe is the ringer in this column. Ice cream that isn’t actually ice cream (no dairy) but tastes like it.

We have a special machine to make this banana-based frozen treat, Yonanas. It has a tube to feed in the fruit, but recipes abound on the Internet for making banana “ice cream” with a blender or food processor. Surprisingly, the frozen dessert doesn’t taste like bananas. It has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream but gets hard as a rock if you put it into your freezer. We make just enough for that serving and eat it all up. And because there is no added sugar, this frozen dessert is guilt-free.

Banana “Ice Cream” (each banana makes one cup of frozen dessert)
1 banana, cut into circles and frozen rock solid

A food processor is better than a blender. Many blenders aren’t powerful enough to process frozen fruit smoothly.

Add in the frozen banana chunks and pulse the fruit (rather than continually blending).

It looks crumbly at first, then like oatmeal. You want to get rid of the visible banana chunks. Scrape down the sides periodically. Keep pulsing until the consistency of ice cream. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for a couple of hours to make it stiffer than soft serve.

Note:
We process two bananas and add in a half cup mixed frozen strawberries and blueberries to serve the two of us. Any frozen fruit can be used. Sometimes we just use bananas and pour on chocolate syrup, caramel, and/or nuts. Some people like to add peanut butter, Nutella, cookie butter, cinnamon, chocolate chips, cocoa powder or candy bar pieces. Experiment. Have fun with this recipe.

Did you like these easy recipes? Tell your friends by using these copy/paste posts or make up your own. Thanks for sharing!

Facebook: Looking for some frozen desserts? Yum! Try brownie ice cream or plain vanilla. These and more at Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time at http://bit.ly/2zBJGws

Twitter: Looking for easy ice cream #recipes like brownie, eggnog, or banana ice cream? These and more at http://bit.ly/2zBJGws

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

And we have a winner!

Congratulations go to commenter Dianne Casey on the post, "So Why Would a Suspense Novel Have Recipes?". She will be receiving a copy of A Game of Deceit soon!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Searching for Mr/Ms Right



I recently, and reluctantly, asked for a reversion of rights for two of my culinary mysteries in the “Dinner is Served” series. Mission Impastable was in print. Prime Rib and Punishment waited in the wings.

It was very difficult to admit it was time to move on. My publisher had been wonderful to me, but her health issues over the past many years had made the future of the company precarious. For my own career, I decided to sever the connection.

It was clear it was the right decision, but that didn’t make it any easier. In fact, I delayed the actual request for rights until several months after I had made the decision. Maybe, it will work out. Maybe the company will right itself. But Maybes were all I had.

Last spring I compiled a list of small publishers of mysteries. There were quite a few of them who were open to submissions without an agent. Not a huge number, but still a respectable number to pursue. I prioritized them and wrote a query letter template. Still I stalled.

Procrastination. What caused it? Reluctance to start over. It’s a hard road, submission is.

Grieving for what had been was another cause. I thought I was done with submissions for this genre, and I liked where I had landed.

Fear of rejection was another. I’d been “accepted” to traditional publishing. Why did I have to prove myself again?

What if no one picked up my series right away? Did I abandon it? Indie publish? Continue submitting until I grew too old to hit the send button?

Serendipitously, I encountered an acquisitions and development editor for a small press at a conference I attended over the summer. I hadn’t come to the conference intending to pitch to anyone, but I quickly pulled something together and pitched my series while handing over a printed copy of the first book. I described book two. Told him I had three books completed in the series beyond the published one, and that books four and five were outlined. He loved the titles of books three through six: Potluck, Ancient Grease, Tequila Mockingbird, and Cooks in the Can.

He asked me to submit the traditional submission materials: a query letter explaining book two and the series, synopsis of book two, the first fifty pages, and a brief bio. I asked if he wanted a marketing plan, also. He seemed surprised I had one, and agreed I should attach that as well.

I sent it all off three months ago. And so the remembered-wait from previous submissions began. I am hopeful but not confident. Small presses only put out a few books a year. I was asking for one of those slots. So were hundreds, maybe thousands, of others. Did already having completed manuscripts give me an advantage? Or was it a liability to commit to a series before sales data on book one was in?

Another piece of the equation always is: so what if they do want me? Do I want them? Am I willing to sign with the first one queried? Shouldn’t I be searching for other publishers to get this process moving in multiple pathways and to soften the blows of rejection? I can always tell myself, “Oh, well. ‘Mysteries Are Us’ didn’t want me, but I still have ten more publishers to hear from.” 

But the procrastination continues. I’ll wait to hear from the conference publisher. If the highly-likely (given publishing odds) rejection comes, I do have my fall-back list of small presses to pull out, make my spread sheet, and send off submission materials. And wait again.

But my fingers, toes, and eyes are crossed in hope that won’t be necessary. You’ll be the first to know how it ends. Well, not really. But you know what I mean.

If you found this post interesting enough to share with your friends, you can make your own social media posts or copy/paste these.

Facebook: Authors, trad publishing has numerous submission heartaches especially when you have to change publishers. Sharon Arthur Moore-Author describes a recent process she has gone through. http://bit.ly/2xDuvAN

Twitter: #Writers face disappointment, long waits, and likely rejection when they submit to trad publishers http://bit.ly/2xDuvAN