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Thursday, November 26, 2009


There's a lot to be thankful for this year. My handsome husband and my immediate family top the list; without his encouragement and support, my parents' cheerleading and unconditional love, and my sister's friendship, I'd probably be an entirely different, much less interesting person.

Of course, in this year of my debut novel, I'm very thankful for my fabulous, savvy agent, Deidre Knight, and my lovely, smart editor, Rose Hilliard, and for the chance they gave me to write what I love and share it with the world.

And speaking of writing, I'd be nothing without my book buddies. I've talked about Roxanne St. Claire and Kristen Painter before, but really, I can't thank them enough for all the fun, gossip, brainstorming, and butt-kicking!

My best friend, Meg, also needs a mention--she of the tantalizing food photos and enviable cooking techniques, not to mention intelligence, wit, and charm. I'm grateful to have such a warm, caring, generous-hearted woman in my life.

I'm thankful for the gift of passion for my work, and my love of food and cooking. I'm thankful for the books that taught me to love reading and romance. Essentially, I'm thankful for all the love in my life, and for more blessings than I can even name.

I'm damn lucky, and I know it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Foolproof Recipes

I love recipes that seem entirely impossible to screw up. The lamb hash I made last night is one of those--I originally found it in Craig Claiborne's New York Times Cookbook, but I've made it several times, several different ways, and it always turns out yummy.

Here's the original post I wrote about it, which appeared several months ago on the TKA blog:

Lamb Hash (Adapted from THE NEW YORK TIMES COOKBOOK by Craig Claiborne)


1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, minced
2 tbsp chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 slices bacon, cooked till crisp, then cooled and chopped
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 cup canned beef broth
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream, approximately
2 tbsp finely grated sharp cheese, like Parmesan or Gruyere

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy skillet (one that has a lid and is safe for both stovetop and oven) over medium high heat until the pan is almost smoking, then add the ground lamb. Stir the lamb with a wooden spoon to break it up, add salt and pepper to taste, then cook until all pink is gone. You'll get better color and caramelization if you don't stir the lamb too much, and if your skillet is large enough to give the meat plenty of room to sear rather than steam.

Remove the lamb from the pan and drain on paper towels. Allow to cool.

Wipe out the skillet and return to stovetop. Add the butter and melt over medium heat until the foam has subsided. Then add the minced onion, garlic, and chopped bacon. Stir it around to coat everything in the melted butter, then add the lamb, beef broth, and tomato sauce. Salt and pepper the whole thing, cover the skillet, and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning.
*The recipe can be completed up to 1 day ahead of time up to this point, then the hash can be brought to room temperature and then refrigerated. To reheat, bring the hash back up to room temperature and preheat the broiler before continuing.*

Lightly butter 6-8 ramekins (depending on their size) and portion the cooked hash into them. Cover each portion with a tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Brown under a preheated broiler.
Served with a simple green salad and a good vinaigrette, this hash makes a lovely lunch or light supper. And the individual portions make it attractive enough to serve to guests. We drank an Oregon Pinot Noir with it, which was delicious.

Last night, I had leftover pan-fried lamb chops, so I diced that up instead of dealing with the ground lamb. Also, I had no stock or meat gravy or anything like that to deglaze the pan after sauteeing the onions and bacon, so I used red wine. The results were slightly purple, very fragrant, and utterly scrumptious! I have a friend who has made this several times for her family; it's a huge hit with her kids, no matter what she does with it. I think she's added mushrooms, stuff like that. (We're having the leftovers this morning for breakfast, heated up with a poached egg on top! Yummmm...)

So let your imagination run wild! If you try this, and vary it in some fun way, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chicago Memories

I'm such a blog delinquent this week! Things have been a little nuts. Not too likely to calm down before Thanksgiving, though, so I guess I'd better suck it up.

Chicago was amazing; it was awesome to see my friends and to have them with us as we tasted our way through some of the world's best restaurants. No exaggeration: Charlie Trotter's, Tru, and Alinea are each, in their own ways, totally top flight and fabulous.

At Trotter's, we sat at the Chef's Table, which is an experience I highly recommend if you're at all interested in the goings-on in a professional kitchen. This one was clearly very well run and organized, possibly aided by the fact that it's an all tasting menu, so there are a limited number of items available for any given table at any given time, which naturally cuts down on chaos. We were *this* close to real live working chefs!That right there is what is sometimes called "the pass", or where dishes are passed from the flat-top/oven side of the kitchen to the server side. There was very little of the shouting and drama you see on shows like Hell's Kitchen at Charlie Trotter's; it was much more like a well choreographed dance. Which is not to say that it operated in the zen-like silence many people have described in Thomas Keller's kitchens--there was a little laughter and joking, some back and forth and chatter. But for the most part, there was a comfortable air of good organization and calm focus.

The food? Oh, right! I guess you want to hear about that, too! *grin* Well, here's the menu, but it doesn't quite convey the delicious abstractness of some of these dishes, many of which involved combinations I never would've imagined myself. With a few exceptions, the surprising flavors paired up extraordinarily well--and speaking of pairings, the sommelier did an outstanding job of choosing the perfect wines to accompany each little bite.

Hmm. Can you read any of that? For the record, the best dish was the Grilled Rabbit Loin with Shallot Confit and Pickled Mustard Seeds--the rich earthiness of the perfectly tender meat was underscored beautifully by the caramelized sweetness of the shallot and the tiny-but-sharp bite of the mustard. A perfect dish.

For a more complete, detailed writeup of the meal, check out my food blogger bff's post. Meg is a great food photographer, as well, so mouthwatering images abound. Ditto to everything she said. ; )

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windy City Ho!

I'm heading to Chicago tomorrow for a long weekend organized by my dear, sweet husband. In case you didn't hear, I turned thirty a few weeks ago, and to celebrate, my best friend Meg (aka Queenie) is meeting us out there, along with one of our closest friends from college and his very cool wife. I'm so excited! And of course, all we've really planned so far is where we'll eat. The first night is dinner at the famous, venerable Charlie Trotter's, and it's extra special because we're eating at the chef's table! I'm hoping this means what it sometimes does--a table actually inside the kitchen where we get to watch the cooks in action. Whatever the setup is, I know it will be a blast, and I can't wait to taste the food that put Chicago on the map as a major culinary destination.
Our other dinner plans are equally exciting: Alinea and Tru. Described as upscale Mediterranean-influenced French food, Tru has won a James Beard Award and countless other accolades, and is widely considered one of the best restaurants Chicago has to offer.

Alinea is Grant Achatz's cutting-edge restaurant dedicated to exploring the best of new techniques married with classical flavors. It was named one of the world's fifty best restaurants last year, and I can't wait to find out why! Our college friends have been there and described it as one of the most singularly amazing culinary experiences of their lives. Take a look at that picture gallery, folks! Yes, it's food (the image to the left is apparently hearts of palm,) and I'm going to eat it! I promise to take pictures. Unless it feel super awkward, then I probably won't. But Meg will! She never lets awkwardness stop her from capturing the food on film, which is why she's a much better food blogger than I ever will be.

I want to hit up a great sushi bar while I'm there, because I'm craving chirashi like you wouldn't believe, and of course no trip to Chicago would be complete with a hot dog! Any Windy City readers out there want to weigh in on not-to-be-missed Chicago hotspots? Doesn't have to be food--even I will probably have to take a break from eating at some point!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Even Newer Cover Look!

Right after I posted the cover for ON THE STEAMY SIDE, I got an email from my editor saying they'd decided to tweak some of the colors. They wanted to add a little more color to warm it up, and they showed me several options. Here's the one I liked the best, and it's the final, final version of the STEAMY cover!
What do you think? I adore it. I think the blue makes it even more fun than it was before, and I love the way the title looks now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Radio Interview!

I'm going to be on the radio! Well, sort of. BlogTalkRadio, so it's more of a live streaming audio kind of thing, with chatroom. I'm super excited! We're going to talk about Can't Stand the Heat, of course, but it's pretty unstructured and chatty. So if you come to the chatroom to hang out while listening, you can post questions and I'll do my best to answer them. I'm kind of nervous! But mostly thrilled.

Here are the details: Tonight at 9:30 PM (EST), go to BlogTalkRadio! I'll be there, reading an excerpt from CStH (any requests? They have a "Mature" ratings. Rowr!) and ready to chat with the lovely host, Cat Johnson, and anyone else who shows up. There *might* be swag in it for the chatroom folks...

What: BlogTalkRadio's What's Hot in Romance Show, guest starring ME!
When: Tonight, 11/9, 9:30 PM (EST)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blog Tour: Victoria Janssen

Ha! Bet you thought I was done with this guest blogging business, didn't you? Well, I've got a couple more scheduled, which is awesome for you--more chances to win an awesome Can't Stand the Heat apron, a set of cute red spatulas, and a signed copy of the book!

Today I'm over at Victoria Janssen's blog, talking about research--how I sucked at it for a long time, and how I eventually unlocked the secret to doing it well...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three Decades

I'm 30 years old today. And what have I learned? Here are thirty random things:

1.) You can't make new old friends.
2.) You can make best friends at any time of your life.
3.) No best friend can replace your sister.
4.) If you make the choice to feel good in the long run rather than the choice to feel good in the moment, you will rarely regret it.
5.) Regrets are for suckers.
6.) Everyone judges books by their covers.
7.) Covers featuring brides, dogs, and/or Nazi symbolism sell. Especially brides on a beach. With a dog! And a Luftwaffe strike in the background!
8.) Write the book that makes you happy to sit down at the computer ever day.
9.) Ignore trends. By the time you're aware of them, they're probably almost over anyway.
10.) It's better to focus on people's good qualities than on their flaws.
11.) There are people who think toilet paper should always be oriented with the end of the roll at the back, and people who think it should always be at the front. No one thinks it doesn't matter.
12.) I am an omnivore, meant to eat meat, vegetables and grains. Eliminating any of those makes me feel crappy.
13.) The Ramones are the best band in the history of the world.
14.) But the Sex Pistols could totally take them in a fight.
15.) There's no thrill on earth like holding your first book in your hands, all shiny and new. Unless it's seeing it on a shelf in a bookstore. Or in someone ELSE's hands, and they're reading it!
16.) Readers are awesome.
17.) If you taste what you're cooking and think it needs something, try adding acid (like lemon juice) before you add salt.
18.) Recipes, like love, should be shared rather than hoarded.
19.) There is no professional relationship more important in a writer's career than the one between author and agent.
20.) New technologies should be embraced, but not to the exclusion of the old ways.
21.) In general, inclusivity is better than exclusivity.
22.) As of this moment, I'd rather live under the rule of law in Iowa than California or Maine.
23.) Everyone has a mission--if there's something you feel compelled to stand up for, no matter what, that's it for you.
24.) Anticipation is half the pleasure.
25.) You can never have too many books.
26.) If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write.
27.) The best way to be happy is to act happy--the very act of smiling triggers the feeling itself.
28.) Perseverance actually does pay off.
29.) My husband is the smartest, funniest, sweetest man alive.
30.) I'm one of the luckiest women ever to walk the earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bunco Babes Gone Wild!

A brand new book in Maria Geraci's hilarious, heart-warming series about the Bunco Babes of Whispering Bay, Florida is out today! You guys should be super excited, because I was lucky enough to get to read an early, pre-pub copy of this one, and it is to die for. Like a classic movie, this book brings out the full range of emotions: laughter, sympathy, tears, and oh-my-dear-sweet-hotness romance! The hero is so memorable, I've had dreams about him. Seriously, you must run right out and buy it. Delicious! Here's the blurb:


Georgia Meyer needs some time to think—and what better place to get her head on straight than Whispering Bay, Florida, in the company of her sister Frida and her sister’s Bunco friends, better known as the Bunco Babes? Georgia’s boyfriend—and boss—Spencer Moody made a slight miscalculation in the romance department and gave her a calculator instead of an engagement ring. So she needs some sisterly advice, in between rolling dice and drinking frozen margaritas, as to her next move.

While considering subtracting Spencer, Georgia meets the very handsome Dave Hernandez. Unfortunately when a Bunco night gets a little out of hand, Georgia reveals more of herself to Dave than she intended. Now, as she helps the Babes prepare for a Bunco Black Tie fundraiser, she needs to search her heart—and keep her shirt on—long enough to decide if a love affair with Dave might be a dream come true or just a flash in the pan.

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