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Monday, February 23, 2015

When a cookbook is more than a book of recipes

As a child in Osaka, Japan, I loved illustrated books from our international school's library. Not only were the pictures works of art (especially for me since I couldn't draw anything but a stick figure), but the aroma of the pages grabbed my senses. Musty, a little on the mildew side, damp---to me that scent was adventure. To this day, I associate the smell of musty bookstores, libraries, and book pages with the joy of escaping into beautiful and wild lands. I'm six again, learning to read. I'm ten, on the train heading home from school, a Bobbsey Twins book in my hands.

So when Carl showed me his cookbook, The Modern Family Cookbook, I loved it immediately for its musty smell. Of course, the fact that he uses it to bring great dishes and desserts to our table is equally important to me.

But upon further observation, this cookbook entices me for other reasons. It is a piece of American history. It's a legacy, a document of what our culture around the kitchen and table used to be.

The first edition came out in 1942. That was a time period when women dominated the kitchen whether they wanted to or not. The author, Meta Given, provides pages of advice, including The Cook's Creed, found near the first half of the book. These five pointers stress how the woman is to do an outstanding job at making meals. To assist her, every month she has a weekly meal guide, using seasonal foods for "thrifty balanced menus". Each recipe found in the guide is numbered.

For breakfast on a Monday in February, stewed dried peaches and soft cooked eggs are recommended. Coffee for adults and milk for the children. On a following morning, cocoa is part of the breakfast menu for children. On a Friday in December, "luncheon" is to be carrot souffle and watermelon pickles. The dessert (after every lunch something sweet is to be served) is "inexpensive fruitcake", which from the recipe looks like a typical Christmas fruitcake with cherries, candied citron, and pitted dates.

The mother of the house was clearly responsible for her family's welfare as well as nutrition. She was to abide by The Meal Planner's Creed: "The health of my family is in my care; therefore---
I will spare no effort in planning the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Spending the food dollar for maximum value is my job, therefore---
I will choose from the variously priced foods to save money without sacrificing health.
My family's enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore---
I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety---for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing combinations.
My family's health, security and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore---
I will treat my job with the respect that is due it.

When I was writing my World War Two novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus, I slipped the cookbook into my story. The aunt in my novel uses it to make food for her niece and nephews. She's a lover of cookies and bakes oatmeal raisin cookies. Since all my novels hold recipes in the back, I include this cookie recipe in Under the Silk Hibiscus so all can enjoy it.

Cookbook language changes over time. Women have allowed men in the kitchen and men are proving to be just as skilled with creating meatloaves, chocolate cakes, and souffles. But a cookie recipe that was delicious back in 1942 is still tasty today. It is timeless, as is wanting to share it with your family. To me that falls under the "I will spare no effort in planning the right kinds of food in the right amounts." Two cookies after dinner? Four? Seven? Meta doesn't tell me, but I'm thinking since both the enjoyment and the pleasure are "my" responsibilities, the more the merrier!

Under the Silk Hibiscus, with the oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, is available today for just $1.99 on Kindle.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Keeping up with keeping up

You know how it can be. We start things and then we start more things and then we forget (especially if you are over 49) and then we're trying to remember what we started, and then we are circling around to try to keep up with what we think we remember starting.

If the above sounds confusing, welcome to my world!

And my senior class said I was highly organized!

I have three blogs---this one, Writing the Heartache and Broken Psalms. Three blogs for a woman who would do much better if she only had one. However, each of my blogs serve different purposes, so I have all of them. Well, it all made sense when I created each one.

This year, one of my resolutions is to spend more time at my Writing the Heartache blog. I want to encourage readers and writers to send me some posts for guest postings there. This blog deals with just what its name suggests---grief and writing. I'm a huge advocate for writing through hardship; to borrow a line from Alice Walker, "Writing saved me."

So please hop over to Writing the Heartache, give it some love. I'd be so happy if you would follow it. Consider sending me a post or two about how you have found writing through grief and loss to be a healing practice for you. Here's the link.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cooking With Author Carol Heilman!

Welcome, Carol! So glad to have you with us here to tell us about your new novel which releases on the 22nd, and share food! The recipe for Hot Browns looks amazing. I tried Hot Browns for the first time this past September when I was invited to a conference in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Here is Carol . . .

The recipe for Hot Browns originated years ago at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, but the cheese sauce—perfected by my mother—turned an ordinary-sounding dish into something scrumptious. The secret is in the sauce.

Our family always serves this dish the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s delicious any time of the year.

Kentucky Hot Browns

Cheese Sauce:
6 T. Butter
½ Cup Flour
3 Cups whole milk
½ t. Salt
½ t. Dry Mustard
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 t. chicken bouillon granules
1 Cup shredded extra-sharp cheese
Melt butter, add flour, and cook until browned, stirring constantly. I use a whisk. Gradually add milk. Heat until thickened. Add seasonings & cheese.

6 slices toast
Turkey, sliced thin
Ham, sliced thin
6 slices tomato
6 strips Bacon, cooked crisp
Shredded Parmesan cheese—about ¾ Cup

You can make these in individual baking dishes or in a 9x13 pan. Spray with Pam.
Arrange toast slices in dish. Add turkey & ham. Cover with cheese sauce. Top with tomato & bacon. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees until bubbly.
Serve hot. ENJOY!

Summer's steamy haze coats North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, but feisty Agnes Marie Hopper discovers the heat isn't the only thing causing her blood to boil. After a kitchen fire destroys her home, Agnes moves in with her daughter, Betty Jo. Three months later they come to an understanding. Neither can tolerate living with the other. So on a sultry August morning Betty Jo drives Agnes and her few belongings to Sweetbriar Manor, a local retirement home and a former house of ill repute.

With no intention of staying, Agnes devises a scheme to sneak out of the Manor and find another place to live. Before she can make her exit, she runs into her best friend from high school, along with some other quirky characters. With a nose for trouble, Agnes learns some of the residents are being robbed, over-medicated, and denied basic cable and Internet access.

Armed with nothing more than seventy-one years of common sense and a knack for pushing people's buttons, Agnes sets out to expose the unscrupulous administrator, protect her new friends, and restore Sweetbriar Manor's reputation as a "rewarding and enriching lifestyle." But the real moment of truth comes when Agnes is forced to choose between her feisty self-reliance and the self-sacrifice that comes from caring for others.

You can order a copy of Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar here.


Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married a farmer's son, her high school sweetheart, over fifty years ago. She and her husband live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Their children and grandchildren live near the east and west coasts where they often visit. Carol enjoys traveling, reading, writing, hiking, and cooking for friends. She is a recipient of two Carrie McCray Awards for writing excellence.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cooking with Author Ann Tatlock

What an honor to have my friend and fellow LPC author, Ann Tatlock, as my guest today.

I asked Ann to share about cooking and her new novel, Once Beyond a Time, that was just released last month.

Here's Ann . . .

In my house, I’m the sous-chef. I have been appointed to this lofty position because I can’t cook worth a hill of beans. In spite of my own mother’s best efforts, the kitchen remains for me a foreign land, cookbooks a library of cryptic words. In fact, if eating were optional, I’d gladly give it up and spend the time reading instead.

My daughter Laura, on the other hand, enjoys making all sorts of culinary creations. One of her favorite things to do is whip up a batch of cupcakes and take them to her friends at school.

Invariably, as she begins to putter about the kitchen, she hollers, “Mom, come and be my sous-chef!”

I dutifully enter that foreign land.

“Okay, Mom, I need you to measure out a cup of water.”

I can do that!

“Okay, now spray the cupcake pans with the cooking oil.”

I can do that too!

Laura smiles. “I love having you as my sous-chef, Mom.”

Happiness arises from the kitchen! My teen-aged daughter enjoys being with me! Together we make some tasty and attractive cupcakes while at the same time making precious memories.

Fortunately, too, my husband is an excellent cook, which has helped to keep my body and soul together for the 22 years we’ve been married.

I have always been far more comfortable, far more at home, in imaginary worlds—those found in books, those dreamed up by my own imagination. So I can’t cook, but if you don’t mind my carrying the cooking analogy over to what I can do, I love mixing together the ingredients of characters, plot, theme and voice, popping it all into the oven of time and effort (it can get pretty hot in there) and seeing what comes out in the end.

My newest dish is Once Beyond A Time.

Normally I write historical or contemporary novels, but this one’s a bit different. The setting is a house high on a mountain where all of time is happening at once, so that the present residents of the house can see and talk with those who have lived there before and those who will live there in the future.

It’s the story of a broken family, a lost child, and a God who transcends time to bring healing to his people and to work out his good plans.

So that’s the latest story cooked up in my imagination. I hope for you it’s a tasty morsel of good reading. Bon appetit!

Thanks, Ann, for joining us here today. You can read reviews of Ann's new novel here.

Ann Tatlock is a novelist and children’s book author. Her newest novel, Once Beyond A Time, was published in December 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her books have received numerous awards, including the Christy Award, the Midwest Book Award and the Silver Angel Award for Excellence in Media. She also serves as managing editor of Heritage Beacon, the historical fiction imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She lives with her family in Western North Carolina. Please visit her website.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recipes I Tried for Christmas Eve

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog and Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate were two new recipes I tried for Christmas Eve.

Due to popular demand, I'm posting both recipes here. They are both worth making---truly delicious.

Make these for your New Year's Eve or New Year's Day gathering.

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites*

(I added a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture at the same time I stirred in the bourbon.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl or pitcher, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture.

My suggestion: Serve the eggnog in decorative glasses. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
6 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In slow cooker (Crock Pot), stir together heavy cream, milk, vanilla and chocolate chips. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until chocolate chips have melted and mixture is hot. Stir again before serving. Top with your favorite fixings! Mini-marshmallows are a nice touch.

Refrigerate any leftovers. We froze our leftovers and the frozen concoction is wonderful. We call it "Frozen Hot Chocolate" and eat it in bowls with spoons, like ice cream.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Crinkles from Memories Around the Table

Make these Chocolate Crinkles for your Christmas celebrations. They're easy to make and great for chocolate lovers! The recipe comes from my cookbook, Memories Around the Table: Treasured Recipes, and is in memory of Margaret Garman, mom to my friend, Barb Eyster.

Chocolate Crinkles
Margaret Esther Garman
June 21, 1926 ~ May 10, 2012

1 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar (I usually use less)
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk
For dipping
Powdered sugar
White sugar

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate the dough overnight. When ready to bake, take the dough out and roll it into small balls. Dip each in white sugar and then in powdered sugar. Bake at 350⁰ F. for 8-10 minutes.
Don't over bake.

Merry Christmas!

Memories Around the Table is available at Amazon and at my Rivers of Life Gift Shop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The cookie recipe from inside a novel

The aunt in my novel loves cookies. Here's a recipe from the novel.

Recipe for Aunt Kazuko’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (1946) from the new novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J. Wisler (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2/3 cup buttermilk
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup seedless raisins
Cream shortening, blend in sugar and add egg. Beat until smooth and light. Sift flour with salt, soda and cinnamon. Stir half the flour in with egg mixture; add milk, the rest of flour, and then oats, nuts and raisins. Stir till well mixed. Drop from a teaspoon onto a buttered baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Yields about 36 cookies.

Book blurb for Under the Silk Hibiscus:
During World War Two, fifteen-year-old Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan desires to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in “the land of freedom” as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves. Get a copy of Under the Silk Hibiscus here.