If you enjoy reading, consider joining a book club!

Besides the fact that reading a book with friends is fun, strong friendships develop.  For me getting together is more important than the book choice.  According to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, regular get-togethers are important for health reasons.  Their large scale study showed that connected people have 22% lower stress hormones.  This slows the aging process for skin and organs explains the coauthor Lynne C. Giles, PhD.  That’s amazing– we can reduce wrinkles with strong friendships.

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Tofu Triangles with Peanut Sauce

So delicious an healthy– ingredients and recipe are courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

Tofu-Triangles

  • 1 package(s) tofu, firm
    (14 ounces), drained
  • 1 teaspoon oil, peanut
    or sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce, less sodium
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter, natural
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar, rice wine
  • 2 tablespoon sugar, brown
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, red flakes
  • 4 medium scallion(s) (green onions)
    finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup(s) water
  • 2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions

Serves 6

Slice the tofu crosswise into 1/2-inch slabs. Then cut each slab into 2 triangles. Blot with paper towels. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium to high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the tofu and fry over medium-high heat until golden. Turn and cook on the second side.

While the tofu is cooking, combine soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper flakes, two green onions and water in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

When the tofu is lightly browned, pour the sauce over the tofu and cook until bubbling. Turn off the heat, scatter the remaining green onions and sesame seeds over the top and serve.

Beef Wellington– not as difficult as I thought!

If you like you can make individual Wellingtons with this recipe– or just one large one.

beef wellington

1 pound cremini mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chives (minced)
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons butter (melted, plus more if needed for pans)
2 pounds filet mignon
to taste salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
½ pound prosciutto di Parma
1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place beef in a small baking dish, and spread with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned. Remove from pan, and allow to cool completely. Reserve pan juices.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.
  3. Mix together pate and 2 tablespoons softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Spread pate over beef. Top with onion and mushroom mixture.
  4. Roll out the puff pastry dough, and place beef in the center. Fold up, and seal all the edges, making sure the seams are not too thick. Place beef in a 9×13 inch baking dish, cut a few slits in the top of the dough, and brush with egg yolk.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until pastry is a rich, golden brown. Set aside, and keep warm.
  6. Place all reserved juices in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir in beef stock and red wine; boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Strain, and serve with beef.

Consider entering the 2018 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers of Romance– here’s why…

If you are an unpublished author in any romance genre and want to get your manuscript in front of an agent or publisher, get ready to enter the 2018 Orange Rose Contest. 

Hey!

I am Kathleen Rowland and want to help you succeed. 

The 35th Contest for Unpublished Writers opens on January 15, 2018. The Orange Rose Contest is one of the programs hosted by the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America® that helps fulfill our purpose of promoting excellence in romantic fiction and advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers. Our contest has been fortunate to realize a high level of popularity and success due to the exceptional quality of our participating judges. Mid-January is when you can download score sheets from OCCRWA.org and submit your beginning pages with a brief synopsis before the contest closes at the end of April. Did you know agents and editors seek fresh, vibrant, and unique voices? Is this you?  This contest gives every author who enters three critiques.  Authors in the final round will receive critiques from editors or agents in their category. 

Would you like to know what qualities and tropes publishers are looking for right now? As the 2018 chair for this contest, I am sharing this insider information to help you make your big dream come true.

·       Strong conflicts where the characters’ goals are in opposition to one another

·       Physical action-oriented heroines (martial artists, MMA fighters, etc.)

·       Enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romances

·       Adventure quest style romances (think Indiana Jones or Ready Player One but with more kissing!)

·       1930s-style fast patter bantering

·       Diverse romances that showcase heritage, ethnicity and cultural practices

·       Romances that also feature very strong friendships/BFF characters

·       Gender role reversals or defiance of gender role stereotypes ( i.e. biker heroine, preschool teacher hero)

·       Post-apocalyptic romances grounded in realism (think Battlestar Galactica)

·       Couples who aren’t interested in a nuclear family-style existence

 

Here are qualities and tropes that editors and agents are presently not looking for:

·       First-person POV (usually better suited for New Adult, chick lit or women’s fiction than romance)

·       One or more “evil exes” as the main source of conflict to a romance — the conflict should be interpersonal between your leads.

·       Telling rather than showing and long exposition/information dumps

·       Characters without any goals besides finding love

·       Alpha heroes that are insulting and condescending to their heroines

·       Couples that fall into insta-love when they meet and never truly face any conflict

·       Relationships where the characters’ only bar to getting together is fear from past bad relationships (Everyone has insecurity and angst, but the only way a character can resolve these things is through internal epiphany. That isn’t enough to hang a story on.)

Expanding my horizons– writing a book taking place in Cuba

Are you considering travel to Cuba? Or better yet, have you been there? I’d love to hear what you enjoyed about Cuba. Travel agencies are responding to the high demand for educational journeys to this cultural gem. Cruising to and around the island country is the most popular. I’d love to explore the coast between Havana and Santiago de Cuba.  There’s a nature reserve on Isla de la Juventud, and that is only accessible by sea.  There are getting off the ship points in order to connect with Cuban people and their culture.  Visitors learn about arts, history, cigar production, baseball, and Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Cuba.

Neighbors who told traveled to Cuba a few months ago raved about the sweetness of Cubans. I hope all is stable politically so that we can continue a connection with Cubans and their way of life which is very restrictive under communism.  This aspect is an underlying theme in my book, One Night in Havana, coming soon from Tirgearr Publishing.

Havana

 

Are you using apples from your tree? Try baked apples!

When we bought this house four years ago, we had a half-dead apple tree.  After puning, it started bearing apples.  The apples are something close to golden delicious and holds its shape when baked. If you have a surplus of apples, bake them with cherries and almonds for a lovely dessert.
bakedapple

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup(s) cherries, dried
    coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoon nuts, almonds, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, brown (packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 6 small apple(s), Golden Delicious
    about 1 3/4 pounds total weight
  • 1/2 cup(s) juice, apple
  • 1/4 cup(s) water
  • 2 tablespoon honey, dark
  • 2 teaspoon oil, walnut
    or canola oil

Instructions

Serves 6

    • Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, toss together the cherries, almonds, wheat germ, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

The apples can be left unpeeled, if you like. To peel the apples in a decorative fashion, with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, remove the peel from each apple in a circular motion, skipping every other row so that rows of peel alternate with rows of apple flesh. Working from the stem end, core each apple, stopping 3/4 inch from the bottom.

Divide the cherry mixture evenly among the apples, pressing the mixture gently into each cavity. Arrange the apples upright in a heavy ovenproof frying pan or small baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour the apple juice and water into the pan. Drizzle the honey and oil evenly over the apples, and cover the pan snugly with aluminum foil. Bake until the apples are tender when pierced with a knife, 50 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the apples to individual plates and drizzle with the pan juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving size: 1 apple

My review– Blood of a Stone Prince by M.J. Neary

I received a PDF copy of Blood of the Stone Prince for the possibility of a review. I am delighted to leave one for this great read.

Blood of the Stone Prince cover7

Blood of a Stone Prince begins with Daniel Dufort’s first person account in the late 15th Century. At nineteen-years-old he plays the organ at Notre Dame Cathedral and writes music. He grew up in this cloistered existence and speaks with entitlement about his intelligence and handsome appearance. Under the watchful eye of Monseigneur Desmoulins who is as unholy as a man could be, Daniel fiddles around with pipes in the organ so that his dark compositions can be heard by all. The Monseigneur and Daniel take fencing lessons from Lucius. The three men are invited to entertain a very sick young woman, Agneise. After her death, she will be buried with criminals. It’s her wish to take all three of them as lovers. No one will test the reader like Daniel, the Stone Prince, in this riotous intrigue. If you are in for non-stop action and wit, I highly recommend Blood of the Stone Prince by talented M.J. Neary.

Here is my friend’s recipe for Kale and Almond Fried Rice– She is a legs model.

Do you find take-out to be too greasy? I enjoyed this Kale and Almond Fried Rice at a friend’s luncheon. That day some of us lamented about how easy it is to gain five pounds or more between Halloween and New Years. Yikes. This recipe follows the Mayo Clinic diet that the hostess was on—she said she doesn’t have to give up carbs to get lean and healthy. As a legs model in Los Angeles, she needs to stay that way. 

kale-almond-fried-rice-750x1333

Ingredients

·       2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

·       1 medium onion, chopped

·       2 garlic cloves, chopped

·       1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

·       1/2-bunch Tuscan kale, ribs removed and leaves cut with kitchen scissors

·       2 cups brown rice

·       2 tablespoons sesame oil

·       2 tablespoons tamari sauce

·       1/4 cup sliced almonds

·       Sea salt, to taste

·       Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

1.       In a 10-inch skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger. (Tip: you can easily peel the ginger with a spoon, by scraping the excess off). Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until lightly golden.

2.      Add kale and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves are slightly wilted.

3.      Add rice, sesame oil, and tamari.

4.     Add almonds and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Morning Glory Muffins with half the sugar

Who’s ready to bake now that the temps outside are getting cooler? The amount of sugar in these morning glory muffins is cut in half, but you can’t even taste the difference. Plus, ingredients such as whole-wheat flour, carrots and apples make this hearty fall treat something you can feel good about eating. Read on for the recipe.

MorningGloryMuffins

Recipe makeover: Morning-glory muffins
*Makes 18 small muffins
Original ingredients Healthier options Comments
2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour Substituting whole-wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour will increase the muffins’ fiber content.
1 1/2 cups sugar 3/4 cup sugar Cutting the sugar in half reduces calories, and there are ways to make up for the sweetness with spices.
2 teaspoons baking soda No change Don’t reduce the baking soda, a leavening agent, or the muffins may be too flat or dense.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon Doubling the cinnamon enhances the sweetness on your tongue, helping make up for halving the amount of sugar.
1/2 teaspoon salt Omit You can get rid of the extra sodium from the salt because the baking soda contains sodium and provides leavening.
3 large eggs 3/4 cup egg substitute Replacing each egg with 1/4 egg substitute will reduce saturated fat and cholesterol.
1 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce Cutting the oil in half and making up the difference with unsweetened applesauce, will reduce fat and help keep the muffins moist.
1/2 cup coconut Omit Leaving out coconut will cut saturated fat and calories.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Doubling the vanilla will enhance the sweetness and more than make up for cutting the amount of sugar.
2 cups peeled and chopped apple 2 cups chopped apple (unpeeled) Leaving the skin on the apples is an easy way to increase the muffins’ fiber content.
1/2 cup raisins No change Don’t increase the amount of raisins. Raisins are calorie/energy dense, meaning they have a lot of calories in just a small portion.
1/2 cup grated carrots 3/4 cup grated carrots By bumping up the amount of carrots in your recipe, you’ll increase nutrients, such as vitamin A and fiber, and compensate in flavor for the omitted coconut.
1/2 cup chopped pecans 2 tablespoons chopped pecans Cutting back on the pecans will reduce fat and calories.

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Whisk to blend evenly. In a separate bowl, add the egg substitute, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Stir in the apples, raisins and carrots. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until moistened but still slightly lumpy. Spoon the batter into muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and bake until springy to the touch, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Nutrition analysis per serving (1 muffin): 175 calories, 7 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 4 g monounsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 163 mg sodium, 25 g total carbohydrate (2 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugars), 3 g protein

What you save: 125 calories, 10 g of fat, 31 mg of cholesterol, 67 mg of sodium and 13 g of table sugar in each muffin.

Note: If 18 muffins are too many, freeze the ones you won’t eat to preserve the freshness. Then grab them from the freezer as needed and pop in the microwave to warm up slightly before serving.

Have you noticed Coconut Chicken is the rage these days?

Do you want to try an easy Coconut Chicken recipe?  This one features soba noodles, but any noodles work fine here.

coconutchicken

Ingredients to serve 6:

  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound mini sweet peppers
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 box (12 oz) soba noodles (such as Annie Chun’s)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high and brush grate with oil. In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the brown sugar, 1/4 tsp of the salt and 1/8 tsp of the cayenne. Rub onto chicken breasts. Grill chicken over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes per side, until cooked through.
  2. Toss peppers and scallions in 1 tsp of the vegetable oil. Skewer peppers and grill 4 minutes; flip and grill another 4 minutes. Grill scallions 2 minutes
  3. stems, and chop scallions.
  4. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add soba and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast coconut 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove to a plate. Add remaining 1 tsp oil to skillet. Add garlic and ginger to skillet; sauté 1 minute. Pour in coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, remaining 1 tbsp brown sugar, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and remaining 1/8 tsp cayenne. Bring to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with 1 tsp cold water. Add to mixture and simmer 2 minutes, until thickened.
  6. In a large bowl, toss sauce with chicken, peppers, scallions and soba. Divide among 6 bowls and garnish with coconut and cilantro.

Nutrition Information for Coconut Chicken Soba Noodles

Servings Per Recipe: 6 PER SERVING: 440 cal., 10 g total fat (5 g sat. fat), 85 mg chol., 880 mg sodium, 52 g carb. (5 g fiber), 35 g pro.