You know how you start one thing, and it makes you think of something else, so you work on that second thing, but then something in the second thing doesn't work right unless you make changes to a third thing that requires an update to a fourth thing and then you've forgotten what the first thing was in the first place?
That's why we now have recipes in the blog. I wrote a post for Romance on the Rocks, and I wanted to link to a post I made last year. That post made me realize I should also link to my Pinterest page on this new post. When I got to Pinterest, I saw that I hadn't updated one of my boards with a recipe I wanted to add. But when I pasted the recipe into the pin, Pinterest told me it had to be fewer than 500 characters. Since I can't fit a whole recipe into the pin I will have to add a link, but the recipe doesn't have a link so now I'm building links.
Want to make white beans with rosemary? It's really tasty!
I'm super excited to announce that my first short story, Three Little Words, is published and available on Amazon!
After a hellish day at work, Cat is amazed that a simple compliment from a rugged stranger can turn her evening from terrible to wonderful. When she bumps into him again just minutes later at the grocery store, her gratitude is quickly eclipsed by attraction. And as the night goes on, that attraction burns hotter than anything she’s ever felt.
What will tomorrow bring?
Herewith I present to you pictorial evidence that marshmallows and the making thereof are not at all scary.
Did you see my post over at Romance on the Rocks before Thanksgiving? Well, if not, go check it out. It's delicious. Seriously. It's some of my favorite recipes and it includes a phenomenal recipe for sweet potato casserole with homemade marshmallows from one of...what's that? Oh, yes, I did say "homemade marshmallows." You don't believe me? Really? Well, here's my evidence:
Marshmallows are one of the simplest things in the world to make. They are literally nothing but gelatin, sugar and water. That's it. Until you get funky and start adding flavors and colors.
So, you wanna learn how to make them? First of all, I want you to head over to Stella Parks' BraveTart website and see her instructions on basic marshmallows as well as the sage ones for the sweet potatoes. I will try just about any recipe that she posts. I'm a little bit in love with her.
You will need three special tools for these recipes, but they are common and not expensive if you need to buy them:
Kitchen scale (because Stella measures everything in weight, not volume)
Stand mixer (because boiled sugar and gelatin will murder the motor of a hand mixer)
Candy thermometer (I used to be incredibly intimidated by these, but they aren't scary either!)
I'm not going to copy the recipe here. Stella is a fantastic writer and I want you to read through her work. But if you get confuzzled during the making of your marshmallows, or you're not sure exactly what something is supposed to look like at a certain stage, I'm adding the photos as your supplement reading homework.
First, gather your ingredients!
I have no idea why, but that song by The Beatles has been stuck in my head all day!
Writerly friends, both published and pre-published, have gotten together to create Romance on the Rocks, a blog in which about a dozen of us participate and will post throughout the month. We'll talk about the books we love and why we love them, and we'd be ecstatic if you joined the conversation!
I'll be posting each month on the 13th, so check back for my first note next Tuesday! And in the meantime, see what the rest of our posse has been up to.
When you click to the site, I'm the radioactive green drink. It's a Midori Sour, and it. is. delicious.
Recently I spent a few days in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley for work. As I’m originally a NorCal girl, it was great to be home, and see family and friends during my evenings off! When my workday ended around noon on the day I was scheduled to fly back to the East Coast, I had decided to spend eight hours in San Francisco playing tourist before heading to the airport for my red-eye flight. I’ve realized that you never play tourist in your own city, and I wanted ride the hop-on/hop-off bus and listen to recorded stories of the places we drove by. And luckily, it was a gorgeous, sunny, breezy day, perfect for being outside.
Then I got into the City and found rockstar parking on The Embarcadero. And I decided that I wanted to play chocolate tourist instead. That was one of the best, deliciousest decisions I’ve ever made!
As usual, I can blame Laura Florand for many of my culinary ideas. I asked her on Facebook if there were any chocolatiers in San Francisco that she would recommend, or any that she hadn’t had a chance to try. I bravely offered myself up as her guinea pig.
You guys, she sent me a map of a dozen chocolatiers in the city.
A map. Dedicated to chocolate.
This is why I love her.
So I started with Recchiuti at the Ferry Building. I had seen their website and was intrigued. It was a smallish, open shop with lots of flavors to choose from, and plenty of boxed sets that made great gifts. I bought my co-workers a box of the Creativity Explored: San Francisco Landmarks chocolates, which were Burnt Caramel Truffles. I bought myself a Peanut Butter Puck to kick off my sweet exploration on the right foot.
Everything about Recchuiti said “dark” to me. The shop’s colors were glossy browns and black, the flavors were deep with just the right amount of bitter to complement the sweet. If you like dark chocolate, this may be your Mecca.
After Recchuiti I checked my handy chocolate map (seriously, one of the best maps ever created) and skipped across the street to shove more quarters in the parking meter. Then I headed south-west to Folsom St. and Socola Chocolatier in the heart of SoMa. This adorable shop is bright and airy, and the ladies behind the counter were delighted to hear that I was on a chocolate tour. Tea sounded refreshing after my walk to their store, so I picked a Masala Chai truffle and a Jasmine. Both were delicious and exactly what I expected of the flavors. And since two of the women were cutting and wrapping fresh caramels, I may have gotten one of those two.
It went on my list of favorite caramels.
I asked them for more recommendations and they sent me back to the Ferry Building and Dandelion Chocolate. Since Miette patisserie was right next door to Dandelion, I felt obligated to get a macaron – salted caramel, do y’all see a pattern here? – on the way. Miette had some of the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever seen, with super slick, glossy frosting. Stop by their shop to give your eyes and your taste buds a treat.
Then back on track and I stopped at Dandelion’s small corner counter. This place is amazing. Their chocolate bars have only two ingredients – cocoa beans and cane sugar. They are purists. And it is so completely worth it. They have samples out and, like coffee and vanilla, you encounter different flavors in the chocolate depending on where it was grown. So even though it’s about as pure as chocolate can be, one bar may taste like Meyer lemons, another may have notes of tropical fruits, and a third may be flavored with cinnamon and espresso, though none of those flavors have been added. They even have a 100% cacao bar. I thought it would either make my jaws sting and I’d drool all over myself, or that it would be so dry that I wouldn’t be able to swallow it. But it was smooth and nowhere near as bitter as I imagined.
*for nine days
Have you read a Laura Florand book? Have you met her chefs? Have you fallen in love with them? Which one is your favorite? Mine is Dominique, because he’s a burly badass with a molten, gooey center and some classic kitchen training (not just pastry) behind him.
Mmmm, I do love Dom.
I do not love Ms. Florand. Because Ms. Florand has RUINED MY LIFE! She, and Philippe, and these damned macarons.
Do you know what a macaron is?
I didn’t. Not really. I mean, I had seen them before. Who hasn’t? They really are little iconic cookies with their bright colors and pretty fillings. But I had never eaten one until a Mediterranean cruise in the fall of 2012. One afternoon we stopped in Cannes. After lunch at an Italian restaurant (as one does in France, bien sûr) a couple blocks from the pier, a friend and I wandered the little streets off Blvd. de la Croisette, the main road along the water. One of these streets held La Maison du Chocolat, a lovely little store with a gorgeous selection of chocolate. They offered small boxes of macarons, probably five or six per package, so I picked up one for myself and one as a souvenir for friends back in the States. I probably spent an entire paycheck on bite sized truffles and other chocolates as well, but that’s not the point of this story.
That was my first macaron. It was divine. Better than that perfect middle of the brownie pan where there’s a light crust and the just barely undercooked batter. Better than that, because EVERY SINGLE macaron is the ideal combination of crust and melt.
(Digressing: J’adore Google Maps. So much. I just found a business called “Sex and the kitchen” that’s listed as a wedding planner. It’s near the Marriott, if you want to check it out next time you’re in Cannes.)
So, for a little over a year, I’ve truly understood the transcendence of a macaron, that it’s so much more than just a pretty cookie. And then, this past March, I read my first book by Ms. Florand, The Chocolate Kiss. I adored the book. I thought it was sweet and beautiful and had the perfect touch of magic realism. It also made me want to learn how to make real hot chocolate. Not your average Swiss Miss with marshmallows or Starbucks Hot Cocoa, but chocolate. Melted. In a cup. With some milk. Milk infused with other flavors. And there’s the secret – infusing the milk. Also, not using cocoa.
Then Ms. Florand had to go and write a bunch more books about more hot, alpha/gooey pastry chefs. Damn her! And in each one, I read about more desserts I had heard of, some I had even tried, but none I had ever really considered making myself. Financiers? Oooh, I had one at Sequoia a few months ago and it was delicious. I should totally try to make that. All the chefs work with chocolate, and though chocolate isn’t my favorite, it does get the creative juices bubbling and it marries quite well with caramel, which is a favorite. Patrick does “sugar work.” What does that mean? I’m going to Google that. (Googling…) Oh, I’m not going to try that. That’s way beyond my capabilities.
But macarons. I can probably make a macaron. I understand they’re finicky and difficult and persnickety and a thousand other adjectives that scare people away, but it can’t be impossible. People make them all the time. It’s a cookie. I won’t let a cookie beat me!
I made my first batch last Saturday.
In March, I was laid off from my job. Boo :(
In April, I was unemployed. Boo :( (but also kinda yay because I had some great time off)
In May, I suddenly ended up with a full time job, a part time job, and an internship. Yay :)
However, all that other stuff plus writing is taking up approximately 137% of my time. So for now, I'm suspending this blog. I'll leave everything posted, there just won't be any updates until we move to Martian calendar and I get an extra 40 minutes in each sol.
Yay! I’m back on track and not posting random stuff!
So, who writes your favorite heroines?
We discussed heroes already, and my deep love for Linda Howard’s uber-alpha males. When it comes to heroines, I like the woman who can work around every obstacle the hero tosses up in front of her. She's clever and observant, knowing that if the hero says, “Stay here and don’t move” in the middle of a gun fight, it’s probably because he doesn't want her getting shot and there’s a strong likelihood of exactly that happening.
I despise the too stupid to live (TSTL) heroine who decides to follow the hero into danger because she refuses to take orders from any man, or because she just knows he’s going to get hurt, or because she thinks her untrained self can somehow assist in a very specialized situation. And then she gets kidnapped or injured and the hero has to risk his life (again) in order to save her. I realize that oftentimes there wouldn't be a plot or climax in the book without her making a reckless decision, but why does her stupidity or rebelliousness or stubbornness have drive the story? If you create an intelligent, reasonable heroine, you can find a motive for her to be kidnapped that doesn't end with me throwing the book across the room.
If you watch my website, you may have noticed that the photo at the top of each page has changed. That's because right now is the peak time for cherry blossoms in Washington, DC and I took a morning to photograph the beautiful trees around the Tidal Basin.
The history of the trees dates back to 1885, when a local resident, who had admired the Sakura trees in Japan, proposed to the US Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds that those same flowering trees be planted along the Potomac waterfront.
It took many requests, almost three decades, and finally a letter to Mrs. Taft herself, before the project finally came to fruition with the City of Tokyo donating an additional 2,000 trees in a gesture of friendship. You can read the full history at the National Park Service website.
OPORD and IMINT for Operation CHERRY BLOSSOM follows...
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend two seminars presented by Bob Mayer thanks to the amazing coordinators at Washington Romance Writers. If you’re a romance reader, you may recall his name from the collaborations he has written with Jennifer Crusie, such as Agnes and the Hitman or Wild Ride. If you’re not a romance reader, you may know Mayer’s other books in his Atlantis or Green Beret series. And if you still don’t recognize his name, well, clearly you need to read more!
Mayer is a West Point graduate, a former Special Forces officer, an author, a consultant, and an all-around smart guy.
Write It Forward was his seminar on the first day, focusing on you as a writer and the “business of being an author.” I wrote that phrase specifically in my book, so I’m guessing Mayer actually said it and should be quoted for it. I have four pages of notes from this day and I won’t try to paraphrase everything he covered.
The major take-away from this presentation for me was knowledge.