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

 

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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.

 

Do you want to try something a little different? How about Coconut Chicken?

The crunchy outside makes Coconut Chicken delicious beyond description.  I’m serving this dish with brown rice, broccoli, and Waldorf Salad– celery, grapes, pineapple on top of greens.

Ingredients to serve 4:

2- 8 oz boneless chicken breasts, scant amount of minced garlic, dashes of Italian seasoning, cinnamon, paprika. Rub with coconut oil, sprinkle with 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut.

Directions:  Bake at 350 degrees until cooked through.

coconutchicken

 

 

Have you ever eaten farro?

Have you noticed farro is taking over the trendy vegan salads on menus? Once in a while I order a vegan or vegetarian selection. Sometimes farro is used a substitute for pasta or rice, farro is a grain with a nutty flavor similar to brown rice. It is rich in fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, B, C, and E.

farrothe front yard

Farro is an ancient grain, first domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, has been found in Egyptian tombs, and is believed to have sustained the Roman legions. Today, farro grows in central northern Italy. These areas at one time wer impoverished area, and the longevity of people there were attributed to farro.  Have you tried it?

The salad I ordered yesterday at a restaurant in North Hollywood, The Front Yard, was their Ancient Grain mixed green concoction. Ingredients were farro, red quinoa, yellow beet, butternut squash, and pomegranate seeds. I am planning to make it at home.

 

Are you writing a series?

Are you writing a series? That’s great because after readers finish a good book, they look forward to more from you.  I’d like to share my tips.

Are you writing books in a series- (3)

Each book in a series must be a stand-alone.  There can be an open-ended question, and I deliver the answer in the next book. Some authors who write a series have a mystery arching over the entire series that is answered in the final book. 

If your series involves one character or a couple, write a happily for now ending rather than a happily ever after.  My method is to change up the hero and heroine by writing a series with male cousins.  This ensures some consistency across the series because the heroes are ex-military, honorable and courageous.  As a writer of a series you need to keep track of the family tree, physical attributes, and locations.  Consider using an Excel spreadsheet to maintain details.  In my case I need to know ages of the characters and stomping grounds of their childhoods.

Consider what is logical.   You’ve created a certain community and premise and must keep actions plausible.  The technology your characters use reflects the world they live in.  Their dialect must be consistent. Are they middle class or are they millionaires?

Have fun with your book series.

Do you want to take advantage of coupon sales on Smashwords? Here’s how.

How do I purchase a book on Smashwords? 
First, register for a free account. This allows Smashwords to create a permanent online library where you can access your purchased books in any format. At the top right of every book page is a shopping cart logo. Simply click on it to purchase the book and then enter your credit card information and follow the simple instructions.

How do I access my shopping cart? 
When you purchase a book, you click the shopping cart icon on the upper right side of the page and it takes you to your shopping cart.   

How do I download books to my Kindle or Kindle Fire?
You’ll find links to all your purchased books in your Smashwords Library. There are two options for loading Smashwords ebook content to your Kindle or Kindle Fire:

1.  USB Connection.  Plug your Kindle into the USB slot (small rectangular slot) of your computer using the cable that came with your Kindle (the Kindle Fire doesn’t come standard with the USB cable, so you’ll need to obtain the cable separately, or, use the email option described in #2 below). When you attach your Kindle to your computer via the USB cable, it makes your Kindle appear as a hard drive on your computer. After you purchase the book, from the book’s book page click to download the “Kindle” .MOBI format. Next, navigate to where you see the Kindle show up as a hard drive on your computer. Next, just drop the book’s file (it should end in file name of .mobi) to the Kindle’s “documents” folder. Then disconnect the Kindle from your computer and the book will be ready to read.  

2.  Email the Ebook to Your Kindle Email Address:  For both first generation Kindles and the newest Kindle Fire, you can email your Smashwords .mobi files to your Kindle email address. 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/706264  Unholy Alliance

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/600768  Deadly Alliance

Unholy is $2!

Deadly is $2!