Let the good times roll with a Mardi Gras menu!

In our family, we laissez les bons temps rouler on Mardi Gras! Our day begins with beignets and cafe au lait as we listen to New Orleans jazz . . . then for dinner, we pull out all the stops: gumbo and mock choux corn, with King cake and praline sundaes for dessert. YUM!

Want to know how we do it? I’ll share a couple of recipes . . .

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (from Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, courtesy of his book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American)

  • 1 pound sausage (any kind, though we prefer andouille)
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 3 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2.5 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tbs poultry seasoning
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1.5 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a large pot with just a little oil. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and fry the chicken until brown. Remove and set aside.

Add flour to the pan and cook until you have a dark, rich roux, about the color of peanut butter. Scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to get up all the goodness. Add the vegetables and the garlic and saute until limp. Add the stock and stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings and simmer, cover, for at least one hour.

Add the chicken and sausage, and cook until the chicken is tender, usually about an hour . . . I simmer it all day.

Serve over hot, fresh rice. The proper way to dish it up is to put the gumbo into the bowl first and then add the rice.

 

Praline Sundae Sauce (from The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans, my favorite place to eat in the Quarter–best after Mass at St. Louis Cathedral)

  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 2 cups dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup double-strength black coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups roasted pecan halves or pieces

Place the sugar in a large, heavy pot and set it over medium heat. Stirring often, slowly let the sugar melt and caramelize until dark brown, being careful not to let it burn. Add 2 cups of dark corn syrup. Add 1 cup of water along with the coffee and butter. Bring the pot to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water.

Add the roasted pecans shortly before serving so they will maintain their crispness. Without the pecans added, the sauce will keep for several weeks in a covered container. If you choose to refrigerate it, which is unnecessary, be sure to let it get back to room temperature before serving.

Super Bowl Recipes for a Winning Party!

Is there anything that goes better with football than food? The perfect Super Bowl gathering this Sunday has to include recipes that are delicious, fun and easy to eat. Each dish is the perfect opportunity to score big for the home team!

The top five must-serve football foods for the 2020 season are:

  • Beermosa Let’s face it: mimosas aren’t really football drinks. In those prissy little flutes, they don’t hold up to yelling at theIMG_2732 refs or chest bumps when your team scores. But a beermosa, served in a sturdy mason jar, is just what you need for a Sunday late morning or early afternoon gathering . . . or basically any time.  My recipe is simple: two fingers of orange juice, then fill the jar with my favorite beer. I used Bud Light with Lime, to add a little more citrus kick.
  • Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels Wings are a football party staple, but they’re a mess to make and to eat. These pinwheels give you a taste of buffalo and bleu cheese together without all the napkins! They’re quick and easy to make, and they go a long way. There are many variations, but this is one I like.
  • Roasted Garlic Cheese Dip Football party dips have to possess enough ooomph to knock down a linebacker. This one seems delicate enough, but it packs a punch. The cheese is rich, FullSizeRender 22but it’s the roasted garlic that makes this dish soar like the pigskin through the uprights. Serve this dip with toasted croutons, and you can’t go wrong.  Find the recipe here.
  • Tot Skewers Plain old French fries are so 2014. And even if you dress them up with cheese and bacon, they tend to become soggy–and hard to eat. But these tot skewers are a step up: they stay crispy, and they’re super-yummy, too. The ranch seasoning is the secret here–get the whole story!
  • Bread Bowl Chili Having a football celebration without chili is a definite flag on the play. But serving it up in a way that’s new and fun is the real challenge. That’s why these adorable bread bowls are perfect. They contain just enough chili to satisfy–and these crusty sea salt and rosemary rolls are just the thing to add both flavor and a brand-new way to enjoy it. Pipe a little sour cream over top to form the football stitching and add FullSizeRender 20some creaminess.  Use your own favorite chili recipe, scoop out the rolls and dish it up.

I’ll be serving all these dishes this Sunday as we enjoy the game! I think Leo, Quinn and the rest of the gang would approve of this menu!

A new look for the hottest football players around!

The Keeping Score series just got a makeover!

One of my favorite series has just gotten even better!

The books formerly known as the Keeping Score series have been re-titled, re-covered, re-blurbed and re-series’d.

I’ve divided them into two series: the first three books will now be the Keeping Score Trilogy, and the subsequent books will all be called Making the Score Football Romances.

Here’s how it works

Keeping Score

What used to be When We Were Us is now—-False Start

What used to be Hanging By A Moment is now—-Three & Out

What used to be Days of You And Me is now—-The Comeback Route

Making the Score Football Romances

What used to be Not Broken Anymore is now—-Down By Contact

What used to be Your Wildest Dreams is now—-Next Man Up

What used to be Sway is now—-Game of Inches

And the new covers–they’re smokin’ H O T! Done by Meg Murrey, these are quintessential football sexiness.

To celebrate this revival, I have two pieces of good news. First, False Start is FREE on all vendors and Down By Contact is only 99 cents. That means this is the perfect time to snatch up all of these books at once. YAY!

And second, in spite of everything I said about this series being over . . . there are going to be two *brand new* releases in this world in early 2021. I’m not announcing titles or who these books will feature (can you guess???), but I promise details will be shared shortly.

Happy Winnie The Pooh Day!

Did you even know there was such a thing as Winnie The Pooh Day? I did not until it was upon us today!

Here’s my Pooh history:

I don’t remember being particularly enamored with WTP in my early years, but perhaps I was, because on our very first trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, in 1972, my grandparents apparently offered to buy me something, and it was Pooh I chose.

(Incidentally, I must have been a fan of larger animals and dolls; I also had a HUGE Snoopy, courtesy of my uncle Mitch, and a big, nearly life-sized doll called Blue Boy who had belonged to my dad.)

So Pooh came home with me and took up a permanent spot on my bed, as the guardian of my pillows. He was comfy; as a small child, I used him almost as a bolster pillow, leaning against him as a read.

But my most vivid memory of Pooh is that my dad hated him. I have no idea why Daddy despised WTP; perhaps the voice, slow and somewhat measured and sometimes a bit daft, irritated him. Whatever the cause, he did.

When I was about four, I began having nosebleeds, particularly at night. It was alarming to me, and I would become very frightened. Daddy decided to blame Pooh for the nosebleeds, and he would give the bear a soft punch to make me giggle and take my mind off my fear.

Pooh is still with me. Many of my childhood favorites have gone by the wayside; I don’t know what happened to the supersized Snoopy or Blue Boy or some of my most beloved dolls (I know where my Barbies are, but that is another story) , but Pooh remains–he’s outlived Daddy, something that I think would make my father chuckle ruefully.

What is it that we love about this silly old bear? Well, for me, it’s more than just Pooh himself; it’s the community about him, Piglet and Eeyore and Owl and Kanga and Roo and Rabbit and TIGGER!! It’s the relationships between all them and of course Christopher Robin, too.

The other day, I introduced Delia to one of my favorite Pooh story–the one where Pooh visits Rabbit, eats too much honey and gets stuck in the hole trying to exit. We both giggled, and then I showed her Tigger and sang her the song (The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers!). I hope she’ll enjoy those old tales as much as I have and as much as her mother did.

Today, I’m going to give my silly old bear an extra cuddle and listen to Kenny Loggins sing about Pooh Corner. I’m going to think about a time when the world was kinder and imagine that if we all took a lesson from Pooh and friends, we might be better off.

Happy Winnie the Pooh Day! <3

Second Chance Romance: Love is sweeter the second time around

Last year, a friend let me know that she was putting together a proposal for Apple Books to do a second chance romance feature. She asked me to submit any of my second chance romance as part of that.

When I think second chance romance, I think a second chance at love–full stop. So my mind immediately went to The Posse, where Jude, a young widow who experienced deep and abiding love with her late husband, finds herself falling for their long-time best friend. She gets a second chance at love.

But apparently, this is not the generally accepted definition of second chance romance–what I learned was that this is a much narrower understanding, wherein the love must be between the same two people, both times.

Happily for me, I had a book like that, too. The First One is the second book in my Love in a Small Town series. It’s near and dear to my heart, because it’s actually a story I had had in my head for a long time before I wrote it.

The book was inspired by Tim McGraw’s song Everywhere. The very first time I heard those lyrics, a tale began to evolve in my mind . . . a young couple in a small town, both of them eager to escape together, until the day of departure arrives. Why didn’t she go with him? That was what made the story.

Ali is the youngest sister of Sam Reynolds, and when we meet her in The Last One, she’s the single mom of a feisty little girl named Bridget. Sam and Ali both reference the fact that she’s divorced, but neither of them says much more than that until one night when Ali spills her heart to her new friend Meghan, the woman who’s slowly winning Sam’s love.

Still, we don’t know what lies ahead of Ali until The First One, when Flynn, the boy who’d been hers back in high school, comes back to Burton for a sad occasion. As it turns out, there’s more awaiting Flynn than he expects.

The First One is on sale at Apple Books for only 99 cents through the end of January. Grab it now and find a second chance at love!

Since Amazon has price-matched the book, Kindle readers can also get in on the fun right here.

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