Recipes That Will Make You Fall in Love!

The food of romance . . .

All of the dishes below either came from my books or are inspired by them. I hope you’ll make them and enjoy!

Roasted Garlic Cheese Dip

I think Sarah would make this when she and Gideon invite the football team to their farm for parties. And remember garlic is perfectly acceptable if both kissers have eaten it! <3

2 heads garlic
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded asiago cheese
1 cup sour cream
1?4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup Italian shredded cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Peel most of the outer layers of the garlic off, then slice off the top of the garlic to expose the cloves inside. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the exposed surface of the garlic, letting the oil sink down into the cloves. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Once the garlic has cooled, turn heads upside down and gently squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
3. Reduce oven temp to 350.
4. With a food processor or electric mixer, blend cream cheese, shredded cheeses, sour cream and parsley until well-blended. Add garlic and blend again.
5. Place mixture into a baking or casserole dish and sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top.
6. Bake about 20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
7. Serve with firm crusty bread.

Italian Love Knots

Vincent made these for Amanda on a very special occasion. I recommend serving these to someone you love!

5 cups of unbleached flour
5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1.5 cups of cooled melted butter
1 cup of milk
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon for cookie
1 ounce of lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, and then the extract and zest.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder, then slowly add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.

When everything is incorporated, let the dough rest for 5 minutes, or wrap and chill overnight.
Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

To form the knots, use a cookie scoop to keep the size uniform. Scoop the dough and roll it into a log about 5 or 6 inches. Take one side of the log and form a circle, then tuck the other end down.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Chicken Soup

Vincent made this for Amanda when she was sick. I make it for my family, too. It cures everything!

1 large chicken
1 onion, roughly cut
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 carrots, finely cut
2 stalks celery, chopped
Escarole (optional)
Bebes (or other small pasta like Acini di pepe)

In a large stock pot, place chicken and cover with water. Add vegetables and garlic, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for four to six hours. Add water as it evaporates.

Remove the chicken and vegetables, straining stock. When chicken is cooled, remove from bones and return to pot. Add finely chopped carrots and celery. Bring to boil and add escarole (if desired).

You can add the bebes to the boiling soup if you like, or you can boil the bebes separately and add to each individual bowl, which will keep the liquid from being absorbed.

Reheat as often as you need. Excellent cure for colds, flu and all manner of crud.

Chicken Fried Steak

(From Ree Drummond)

As served at Kenny’s Diner in Burton to Tori and Hunter!

1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)
Kosher salt
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
Gravy:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, for serving
  1. For the steak: Begin with setting up an assembly line of dishes. Mix the milk with the eggs in one; the flour mixed with the seasoned salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika and cayenne in another; and the meat in a third. Then have one clean plate at the end to receive the breaded meat.
  2. Work with one piece of meat at a time. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and black pepper, then place it in the flour mixture. Turn to coat. Place the meat into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat. Finally, place it back in the flour and turn to coat (dry mixture/wet mixture/dry mixture). Place the breaded meat on the clean plate, then repeat with the remaining meat.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Drop in a few sprinkles of flour to make sure it’s sufficiently hot. When the butter sizzles immediately, you know it’s ready. (It should not brown right away, if it does, the fire is too hot.) Cook the meat, 3 pieces at a time, until the edges start to look golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate and keep them warm by covering lightly with another plate or a sheet of foil. Repeat until all the meat is cooked.
  4. After all the meat is fried, pour off the grease into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the grease back to the skillet and allow it to heat up.
  5. For the gravy: When the grease is hot, sprinkle the flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease, creating a golden-brown paste. Add more flour if it looks overly greasy; add a little more grease if it becomes too pasty/clumpy. Keep cooking until the roux reaches a deep golden brown color.
  6. Pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the seasoned salt and black pepper to taste and cook, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick. Be sure to taste to make sure gravy is sufficiently seasoned.
  7. Serve the meat next to a big side of mashed potatoes. Pour gravy over the whole shebang!

Love in a Small Town Re-Read: The Last One

In 2013, I wrote my first adult contemporary romance. It was called The Posse, and it was set in a small Florida beach town. I assumed it would be a single, stand-alone title, and that would be it. Then I’d go back to my YA/NA paranormal romance books.

WRONG! First of all, there were more books in Crystal Cove. Second, there was just something about Jude’s daughter Meghan that drew me. I knew she had a story. And when that story began to unfurl, I realized that it was taking me to an entirely new small town.

So I decided that in the summer of 2014 I would write that story. What I didn’t realize was that both the book and the summer would be a turning point.

At that time, I had written seven books–and most were paranormal romance. Four were young adult. I fully expected to go back to paranormal romance as my main genre.

And my family was living in Sanford, Florida. If that sounds familiar, it should: some of the more notorious Florida cases in recent years have either happened there or been tried there. It wasn’t our first choice of homes, but through a series of circumstances, we’d ended up moving there in 2012. By 2014, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

At the start of that summer of 2014, we’d decided it was time to move. My husband, at the time a hospice chaplain, was working about an hour away. We had the option to move to the east coast of the state to be closer to his work. But there was also a chance that he was going to be offered a position in parish ministry on the west coast of the state. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, we couldn’t make any move until we knew . . . so we were in limbo. We were packing boxes, but we didn’t know where we would land.

And in the midst of that, I wrote a book.

Meghan is also in a time of flux. Her father has died. Her mother fell in love with and married a man who had been a long-time family friend. Her younger brother learned that he was a father and also got married, and then came home to help run their family’s restaurant.

She has just finished her third year of college and embarked on a summer gig to teach art to an underserved community. She isn’t entirely sure what she wants: romance? Probably not. True love? Definitely not. She talks about reinventing herself in a new place. Getting away. Is there some part of Meghan that wanted to escape herself? Most definitely!

Sam, on the other hand, has his feet firmly on the ground. He’s serious and focused on keeping the family farm above water. When he meets Meghan the first time (after her night at the Road Block) he makes some really big judgments that might not be based on her actions as much as they are on his own feelings.

The Last One is about two people falling in love, when doing that is the last thing either of them wanted or expected. But it’s also about life in a small town, about healing after loss and about being courageous enough to take a chance.

We’re going to discuss all of the Love in a Small Town books in my reader groups, both on Facebook (the Temptresses) and on the forum attached to this site (Tawdra’s Inside Squad). Come join us there to chat!

Meghan and Sam . . . The Last One (Six Years Later!)

{Sam and Meghan’s story begins in The Last One, where they find their happily-ever-after. It continues through The First One, The Only One, The Always One, The Hard One and The Forever One  . . . and the pair are even mentioned a few times in some Crystal Cove Romances, too! But wait, there’s more! I have two previously shared extra epilogues . . . and now a new update on the pair right here.You might want to read the other two first. Enjoy!}

–Meghan and Sam at the Beach

–Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

The peaceful quiet of my late-afternoon was pierced by a wail coming through the baby monitor that perched on the kitchen table, next to the bowl of green beans I was in the middle of popping for dinner. I grimaced, waiting for the inevitable, and I wasn’t disappointed: a second voice joined the first complaints.

I groaned and rested my forehead against my hand. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my sweet babies–I did, so much. But this time of day was tough for all of us. My mother had sympathetically called it the witching hour when I’d described how between the end of their last nap and the beginning of dinner,  nothing seemed to make the little ones happy.

The misery was compounded this time of year, too, because Sam was so busy, he didn’t get in from the fields until much later. During the winter, I loved that he was at the house so much. I’d gotten positively spoiled by having a second parent around to help me corral the kidlets. But right now, he was up to his neck in onions, tomatoes, and peaches.

The noise level from upstairs rose another decibel, and I pushed back my chair to comfort the twins before things got worse.

***

Twenty minutes later, we were all back in the kitchen. Daniella, my chestnut-haired daughter, was busy on the floor with a metal pot and a wooden spoon, while her red-haired brother Justin was in the high chair finishing his second banana. I’d learned from hard experience that not letting their hunger get ahead of me was key to survival.

I’d just settled back at the table with my beans when I heard a knock on the kitchen door, which was followed in short order by the knob turning as my sister-in-law’s face appeared.

“Yoohoo! Anyone home?”

Both of the twins stopped what they were doing, their attention arrested, and then in unison, they broke into squeals of delight. Aunt Ali was a favorite among my little brood. Happily for all of us, she and her husband, Flynn, along with their two children, had just moved back to Burton to live here full-time after years of dividing their time between New York City and the little house they’d built here on the farm. Ali had told me privately that she was sick of big-city living, but their official reason for making the move was that they were expecting their third baby and wanted to be closer to family.

I watched with a smile as Ali scooped up Daniella and loved on her before turning to Justin to blow raspberries in his neck. When she’d pulled out a chair and plunked down with Dani in her lap, I cocked an eyebrow.

“Were you in the neighborhood, or are you just here to check on my sanity?”

Ali laughed. “Both. I just left the stand in the capable hands of Matt Westin. He’s doing a terrific job over there, which is awesome because I don’t feel like waddling around this fall when I’m huge.” She patted the tiny bump behind my daughter. “But I’m here for a reason. I’m kidnapping your babies.”

I frowned. “What? Why?”

“Because I know what it’s like to have a toddler, and I can only imagine that two is double the . . . fun.” She winked.

“Did your brother put you up to this?” I narrowed my eyes.

“He told me that you’ve been worn out, and he was worried because he feels like he can’t be in two places at once. So . . . I offered to come take these little cherubs home with me for the night.”

“Are you sure?” I was dubious. “It’s not like you don’t have your own hands full.”

“Ah, but the difference is that I have Bridget. Never underestimate the value of a fourteeen-year-old girl who loves babies.”

That was true. My niece was wonderful with the twins.

“So go get the kids’ stuff . . . and then take a nap before my brother gets home.”

I suddenly had a burst of energy at the prospect of an evening alone with my sexy husband. “Just give me five minutes!”

I heard Ali giggling, but I was too busy taking the steps two at a time to care.

***

An hour and a half later, I was a new woman. I’d taken a long and leisurely bath, taking the time to shave all the interesting parts of my body that had been recently neglected. Over my smooth and sleek skin, I’d pulled on a floaty sundress . . . and nothing else.

Back down in the kitchen, I cleaned up Dani’s pots and spoons and Justin’s messy high chair. I was just rinsing my hands when I glanced out the window at a very arresting sight.

My husband stood in his usual position at the outside sink in the shed. He’d shucked off his T-shirt and was letting the water run over his hands, splashing it onto his sculpted chest.

With a wide grin, I dashed out the kitchen door and danced across the grass, slipping behind him to wrap my arms around his middle and press my cheek into his muscled back.

I was fairly certain that he hadn’t heard me, but he wasn’t surprised by my touch. His hands, still wet, covered mine.

“Who could this be?” His voice, teasing and low, rumbled against my ear. “Careful, my wife might be around somewhere.”

“Ah, don’t worry about your wife. She’s a mess. I’m much more fun. I’m the hot college student who’s just here for the summer. The one who’s been teasing you and flirting with you for weeks. The one who keeps you up at night, making you wonder what she’s wearing under her dresses.”

“Oh, really?” Sam turned in my arms, drawing me against him. His eyes, hot and wanting, bore into mine. “And have you been watching me out here?”

“Every. Single. Day.” I punctuated the words with open-mouthed kisses to his chest.

“Hmmmm.” He threaded his fingers into my hair. “You smell damn good, too. Good enough for me to scoop up and carry upstairs to my bedroom . . . where I fully intend to do dirty things to you all night long.”

I shivered in delight and hooked my arms around his neck. “I hope that’s a promise.”

“It is.” Angling his head, Sam lowered his mouth to mine, his lips and tongues giving me a tantalizing preview of exactly what to expect.

When he came up for air, he pressed his forehead to mine. “By the way . . . even though it was that sexy, teasing college girl I fell in love with, it’s my much sexier and even hotter wife who keeps me in love.” His hand framed my face.

I sighed, kissing his jaw. “Sometimes I forget that.”

Sam’s lips curved into a smile that was brimming with love and promise. “Then let me spend tonight reminding you, darlin’.”

And let me tell you . . . he did.

The second Diagnosis: Love Cover Reveal

 

Preorder here!

Coming July 28th . . .

He’s science and tradition. I’m nature and new age. We clash at every turn.

Emma

My first months on the oncology wing at St. Agnes Hospital were tumultuous. Between constant fighting with Dr. Deacon Girard–which led to some ill-advised passion in a break room–and losing a patient I’d come to care about too much, I’m beginning to wonder if moving down here was the worse mistake of my life.

But on the other hand, the friendships I’ve made in Harper Springs make the pain worth it. When one of those friendships begins to be more . . . well, maybe it’s time to move on and forget all about Deacon.

If only I can . . .

Deacon

I haven’t run away from a damn thing since I was a kid, but I’ll admit that’s exactly what I did after things got too intense between Emma and me. I took off for Eastern Europe, telling myself that I was there for kids who needed my brand of medical expertise. But the truth was that I needed to get away from Emma . . . because what I feel for her scares the hell out of me.

I’ve been down this path before, and I know the kind of pain love brings with it. I don’t need to do this again. So even when I go back to St. Agnes Hospital, I pretend nothing happened between us. I ignore my own heart.

For as long as I can . . .

Preorder here!

Are you ready for a little more Deacon and Emma?

I’m so excited! This is the second sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . and if you read the first excerpt, you know there are fireworks between Emma and Deacon. But now let’s check out Deacon’s point of view . . .

Preorder here! Coming July 21st


 

Deacon

The sun was setting as my truck bumped over the dirt road that my navigation app claimed was taking me to Emma’s house. I had my doubts. As far as I was aware, this area was completely undeveloped. I was all too familiar with the fields out this way. Unless she’d built a cabin in the woods that no one knew about, I would’ve heard some kind of buzz about it.

But I didn’t see anything . . . except, off to the east, an old trailer was set up among the weeds and grass. That couldn’t be it. Or could it? Squinting, I spied a blue sedan parked alongside the mobile home. There was definitely someone living there. It might be our naturopath . . . or it might be an anarchist with an arsenal who didn’t want to be disturbed. I figured I was going to have to take my chances.

I drove closer and squinted through my windshield, checking out the situation. There were curtains on the windows, and a small deck outside the trailer’s door boasted a bunch of potted plants. Yeah, this was a chick’s place, for sure. Anarchist, as a rule, didn’t care much about the niceties of life.

Still, I moved cautiously as I parked the truck and climbed out. And I stood near the front bumper as I called out before approaching.

“Emma! Uh, Dr. Carson!”

There was movement within the trailer, and within a few seconds, the door opened. Emma stuck her head out, and even from that distance, I could see her scowl.

“What are you doing here?”

I stalked over toward her, plowing through the weeds. “Is this where you live?”

She stepped outside onto the deck, closing the door behind her and crossing her arms over her chest. For just a moment, I let my gaze wander down her body. She’d changed from her work clothes into denim shorts that had definitely seen better days. But I wasn’t complaining since they showed off miles of long, tanned legs above an old pair of Keds. And the blue T-shirt she wore on top hugged her breasts like a lover.

“Hey. Eyes up here.” She pointed to her face. “What’re you looking at?”

“Sorry.” I dragged my focus up where it belonged. “Uh, I’ve just never seen you undressed. Not dressed, I mean. For work. You’re usually . . .” I made a gesture toward her legs. “You know. Fancy. Professional.”

“Good to know, because fancy professional is what I’ve been aiming for.” Her tone was arch.

“Do you really live here?” I repeated the question that she hadn’t answered.

She rolled her eyes. “No, this is my summer place. I come out here to get away from the hustle and bustle of my townhouse.” Sarcasm oozed from her words. “Yes, I really live here. I own this land. I’m in the middle of planning the house I’m going to build, which I hope to have started shortly.”

“Why here?” I knew it sounded wrong even as I said it. But I just didn’t get it. Why the hell would someone with her resources choose to live in a shack in the middle of nowhere? Housing wasn’t exactly plentiful in Harper Springs itself, but there were some decent neighborhoods in the nearby towns.

Emma’s tongue darted out to swipe across her lips, and I realized that I was making her uncomfortable. “I have plans.” She spoke softly but clearly. “I want to grow my own food, raise herbs and the plants I need for the oils and supplements I want to offer my patients . . . I want to put all of the research and learning I’ve done over the past years into practice here. I want this place to be a haven—not only for me, but for others.”

I could hear the banked passion and earnest longing coming through what she was saying. It was the first time I’d seen such vulnerability in her, and I was taken aback.

“The land’s good.” I cleared my throat and turned to stare off into the distance. “The soil . . . it won’t need much help.” I pointed toward the tree line. “I grew up on a farm just a mile or so over that way. My grandparents still live there. They grow tomatoes and corn and strawberries—it’s not a huge operation, but we did okay.” It had been enough to help me get through college and medical school, and for that, I’d always be grateful.

“I never would’ve pegged you as being a farm kid.” Emma sounded amused now. “Matter of fact, speaking of being out of uniform . . .” She paused and very intentionally trailed her eyes up and down me in an obvious imitation of how I’d checked her out. “Who knew that the impeccable Dr. Girard owned a pair of jeans?”

“Funny.” I took a step closer and braced one hand on a nearby patio chair. “Most folks around here are more surprised to see me in a suit, even now.” I angled my head down and peered through one of the trailer’s windows. “Do you have electric in that thing?”

Her eye twitched. “Not yet. Just gas and kerosene lights. I’m working on getting utilities out here, but I’m given to understand that it’s a process.” She gave the word air quotes and then shook her head. “Anyway, that doesn’t matter. What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Angela Spencer.” I dragged the chair back a little. “Can I sit down?”

Emma shrugged. “Sure. The bugs are going to get vicious pretty soon, but you’re probably okay for now.” She sank down to perch on the step, her eyes staying on me as though she expected me to make some kind of unexpected move. “What about Angela? If you hauled your cookies out here to yell at me again about the PICC line, you could’ve just waited until tomorrow.”

I eased gingerly into the porch chair, not quite certain it would support me. The wicker groaned a little, but I didn’t end up on my ass, so I decided I’d probably be okay.

“I didn’t come about the PICC line deal. Or—yeah, I guess I kind of did, but it was to tell you that I think you were right. I know I fought you about that whole thing, but I was wrong.”

Emma’s eyes widened dramatically. “Oh, my God, and here I am without a witness. The great and powerful Dr. Girard was wrong about something? Is this a first? Should I be filming it for posterity?”

I gritted my teeth. “I’m not the arrogant asshole you seem to think I am. Believe me, I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. I freely admit to that. And when I do, I own up to them.”

She stared at me, her expression inscrutable. “Okay. Good to know.” She shifted, leaning her hands back to rest behind her and stretching those endless legs forward. “Did you seriously drive out here to tell me that, or was there something else?”

There was something else. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of things I’d driven out to discuss with Dr. Carson tonight, but as twilight drifted over us and the crickets began to sing, I was tempted to just sit here with her and savor the peace for a little while. None of what I’d planned to bring up was going to make her happy. Maybe for once, it would be all right for us to enjoy a détente, no matter how tenuous and short-lived it might be.

As I brooded over this, Emma tilted her head, watching me, waiting for my response. A movement to her left caught my eye, and without stopping to think about it, I leaped to my feet and grabbed her arms, pulling her up and away from the trailer. Taken unawares, she teetered off-kilter, her hands gripping my shoulders to keep her from falling over.

I became painfully aware of several things at once. Emma’s long, lithe body was pressed up against me. Her full breasts rubbed my chest as she sucked in a quick breath. Her face was tilted up to stare into mine, and her lips were slightly parted in surprise.

And I wanted to kiss her more than I’d wanted anything in a very long time.

Preorder here! Coming July 21st