From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! May you be blessed by the love of Christ.
Laughter, Love, and Lemons February 3, 2014
Growing up, my family was part of a family life group at our church and the times we shared together were deeply ingrained on my subconscious. I don’t remember how old I was when the group started to drift apart for a variety of reasons, but then again, I am getting older and memories are harder to call upon.
However, I do remember the love, laughter, and feeling of safety of those nights singing and studying the Bible. I’ve measured every church group since then against the feeling that settled deep in my heart during those gatherings. (more…)
Love is in the Air February 14, 2013
An excerpt from Winter’s End
When they reached a small alley with white lights crisscrossing overhead, Lizzie followed as Ian turned and they walked toward a small courtyard. Snow crunched under their feet, not having been cleared after yesterday’s shower. The narrow walls of the alley made it impossible to see anything in the courtyard other than a fountain, now silent, with icicles hanging from the three levels. When they emerged into the courtyard, Lizzie was surprised to find an elegant bistro at the far end. Topiaries stood on either side of the large plate glass window in the shape of hearts, with red silk roses woven into the greenery. Bistro Amore was written in black letters across the front door.
“I hope you’re hungry,” Ian said, stopping in front of the bistro.
“Famished actually,” Lizzie replied, stepping through the door he held open for her. Inside, the restaurant was dimly lit with hundreds of white, votive candles in small glass vases scattered on the tables and tall pillar candles perched in sconces along the walls, but only one table, in the center of the room, was set, ready for service.
“It doesn’t look like they are open yet,” Lizzie whispered, turning back to Ian.
“I don’t know, maybe you should ask the hostess.” Ian pointed.
Lizzie turned back around to find a young woman with long black hair, wearing a red velvet skirt that flowed to her ankles coupled with a white blouse standing before her, holding two menus.
“Good evening, Ms. Reynolds, Mr. Cavanaugh. Your table is ready for you.” The hostess led them to the center table and pulled the chair out for Lizzie, waiting until Ian was seated to hand out the menus. When she did, Lizzie gasped.
The front of the menu had Lizzie and Ian’s names on it, with the date, and a photo from their first date at the Samba Room.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Lizzie,” Ian said.
“But Valentine’s Day isn’t until Monday.” Lizzie gave him a confused look.
Ian reached across the table and took her hand. “I know you aren’t the biggest fan of this Hallmark holiday, but I wanted to do something special for you. I thought maybe if it wasn’t on the actual day, you wouldn’t think it was just part of the commercialism.”
Lizzie felt walls built up over years of disappointment crumble in her heart. She wrapped his hand in both of hers and gazed into his eyes, hoping he understood how much his words meant to her.
“Do you want to look at the menu?” Ian asked
“I don’t know if I can take my eyes off you,” Lizzie whispered.
“Maybe I should read it to you then. There aren’t many choices, though. To start, a butternut squash soup, followed by a Caesar salad, then maple glazed salmon, mashed potatoes, and asparagus, and for dessert, well, I’ll let that be a surprise.”
“My favorites,” Lizzie said, her heart racing.
“I’m happy to hear that,” Ian replied with a laugh.
“How did you do this?” Lizzie asked.
“I just made a reservation,” Ian replied innocently. ”Isn’t that something you do all day at work?”
Lizzie looked around the restaurant and laughed. “Hardly. I don’t think I have enough pull to get an entire restaurant for one guest.”
“I guess you just don’t know all the right people then.”
“Come on, you have to tell me.”
“I went to school with the owner, and I have to be honest, they will open to everyone else at eight. He agreed to open early for me as a favor.”
“Very impressive favor.”
“A high compliment coming from the queen of making the impossible happen,” Ian replied.
A waiter approached with a tray containing their soup and a bottle of wine. Lizzie leaned over the bowl of soup and breathed in the warm aroma, feeling any lingering chill in her bones fade away. The server poured a taste of wine into Ian’s glass. He swirled it around, gave it a good smell, swished a bit in his mouth, and gave his approval. When their glasses were filled, the waiter retreated. Ian raised his glass.
“A toast. To the first of many Valentine’s Days together.” They clinked their glasses and took a sip of the chilled Riesling.
Lizzie slurped at the hot soup, her taste buds going wild as the liquid slid over them. She closed her eyes, allowing her sense of taste to take over as she picked out the flavors of saffron, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
“You can never repeat this, but this soup is so good, I may have to suggest Chef Gustave visit your friend for some pointers.” Lizzie opened her eyes to find Ian watching her with pleasure.
“I’m glad you like it,” Ian said, dipping his own spoon into the creamy yellow soup.
The salad and then the main course were served, each bite seemingly better than the last. Lizzie cleaned each of her plates and sat back with a sigh of contentment as the waiter removed the empty dishes.
“I know you said there was dessert, but I don’t think I could eat another bite,” Lizzie said and dabbed at the corners of her mouth with her napkin.
A look of disappointment clouded Ian’s face and Lizzie regretted her words.
“But, I could probably share with you,” she quickly added.
“I understand if you are too full. We can always have something later. The night is still young.” Ian pushed his chair back. “Wait here a minute.” He turned toward the kitchen and slipped through the door.
Lizzie rubbed her stomach as if that would speed along her digestion, and glanced around the restaurant. She could see twenty other tables, each covered in a black cloth. She could hear more voices from the kitchen as they prepared to open to the rest of their patrons. Without warning, the hostess appeared at Lizzie’s side.
“How was everything?” the hostess asked.
“It was perfect. Please send my compliments to the chef. I can’t remember a better meal.” Lizzie smiled and extended her hand. “Thank you all for making this such a memorable evening.”
“It has been our pleasure. Ian has been such a good friend to my husband. When he called us, we were happy to help him.”
“You and your husband are the owners?” Lizzie jumped up from her chair and pulled the woman into a hug that nearly knocked them both over. “This truly has been the best night of my life.”
The woman’s eyes sparkled. “Ian is always full of surprises.” With that, she faded into the darkness.
Lizzie sat down again and pulled her phone from her purse. As she was typing a text message to Emma, Ian returned and pulled her to her feet, wrapping her in his arms and holding her close to his chest. She rested her ear over his heart and listened to the steady thump.
“Where to next?” she murmured.
“That would ruin the surprise wouldn’t it? Let’s just see where our feet take us.” Ian led her out of the restaurant back to Main Street.
Gifts from the Heart January 23, 2013
As you may recall, I was in a baking frenzy the first couple weeks of December. I had toffee and five different types of cookies piling up in my kitchen, but there was one more recipe I couldn’t wait to try; Vanilla-Sour Cream Tea Bread. This recipe came to me in the November/December issue of Tea Time magazine.
On my weekly stroll through Target I had stumbled upon a package of disposable loaf pans. I dropped them in my cart certain the perfect recipe would come along to fill the pans. My loaf pans were larger than therecipe called for so I doubled the measurements and was able to make 6 loaves (7.5×3.25×2-inch).
When the tea bread was baked and cooler I packaged it up along with my cookies and toffee to give to coworkers, my hairdresser, and my masseuse. I loaded my treats into the car and delivered them around town and the office. Over the next several days my coworkers came to me and thanked me, telling me what their favorite treat had been. When I saw my hair dresser and masseuse this month, they both had stories of how they had shared the tea bread with their families on Christmas and received rave reviews, asking for the recipe. Talking with my masseuse last week about how much her guests had enjoyed the tea bread , I realized that I experienced as much pride in these compliments as I do when I receive compliments on my writing, and I felt the same jolt of happiness that I get when I’m in the kitchen mixing up a new treat.
Why did we get away from homemade gifts? Sure it can be time consuming, but in the long run it shows how much we care about those we are giving the gift to. Next time you are struggling to find the perfect gift, consider opening your pantry or flip through a cookbook. There are bountiful ideas out there for gifts from the heart.
Vanilla-Sour Cream Tea Bread
as seen in Tea Time Magazine
makes 4 mini-loaves
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup melted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring
- Preheat oven to 350
- Spray 4 mini (3×5-inch) loaf pans with nonstick spray with flour. Set aside
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking well. Set aside
- In a small bowl, combine sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring, stirring well. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until wet ingredients are incorporated. (Batter will be stiff.)
- Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, patting level using a spatula.
- Bake until light golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
* I doubled the recipe and made 6 loaves (7.5×3.25×2-inch).
*A bit of lemon curd spread on a piece of bread is delicious
Yum Yum Crab Cakes June 25, 2012
I hope you enjoyed the last excerpt and recipe. Did anyone try it out over the weekend? If so I would love to hear what you thought. Today’s excerpt has Julianne being comforted by Gavin, the man she has loved from afar for years.
Julianne sat in shocked silence. Hearing Gavin praise her work like this was the last thing she could have imagined this morning. Her heart swelled with pride and tears stung her eyes.
“Thank you,” was all she was able to whisper through her constricted throat.
“You know, I gave Oliver a script the other night that I think he is right for. I’d really appreciate it if you could run some research on it for me before anything gets set in stone. I could give you a copy at dinner tomorrow night. I’d pay you of course.”
A tear trickled down her cheek then she was bent over with laughter over her earlier hysteria. Gavin sat awkwardly not quite understanding what was happening but suddenly longing to hold her. How had he overlooked her for so long? For the first time he saw how truly beautiful, intelligent, and passionate she was. Deep in thought, he sat beside her and wiped her tears away.
Julianne stopped laughing. Her eyelashes sparkled with droplets of water. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. She leaned into him and inhaled his familiar scent. His heartbeat was strong and even against her ear.
“Thank you for taking me seriously Gavin instead of just appeasing me because I am Michael’s little sister.”
“You are certainly more than that,” Gavin breathed into her hair. “You’re a force to be reckoned with, Julianne Finnegan, and I think you just hit your stride.” He gently kissed the top of her head sending shivers down her spine.
Julianne felt safe in Gavin’s arms. So many nights she had dreamed of this moment and now the reality seemed impossible. She buried her head in his shoulder and basked in his warmth wanting the moment to last forever.
Gavin gently ran his hand down Julianne’s hair in a hypnotic motion. He tried to think back to the first time he had met her, but he couldn’t. He remembered his first meeting with Michael in college, but Julianne had just appeared. No grand moment, nothing that made an impression on him. She had been quiet and shy, seemingly content in her brother’s shadow. Not once had he taken the time really to get to know her.
“Gavin, are you going to answer that?” Julianne pulled away wiping her face with her hands.
“What?” he looked at her distractedly.
“Your cell phone.” She pointed at his jacket pocket where the ringing sound came from.
“Oh, yeah,” he reached in and flipped it open. “Hello?”
“I’m getting ready to head out for lunch and thought I would see if you were interested in joining me.”
“Sure, Michael,” Gavin replied leaning away from Julianne. “Lunch sounds good. How about I meet you in twenty minutes? I’m over at Julianne’s”
“The Downtowner okay with you?”
“Actually, would you mind the Ocean Market? I have been craving their crab cakes.”
“See you there.”
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon minced green onions
8 ounces crabmeat
1/2 cup crushed buttery round crackers
1 tablespoon butter
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, mayonnaise, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, tarragon, and scallions. Gently stir in crabmeat, being careful not to break up meat. Gradually mix in cracker crumbs, adding until desired consistency is achieved.
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Form crab mixture into 4 patties. Place patties in skillet, and cook until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes on each side.