Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies

This was a fun, easy cookie recipe. And I can console myself that despite the sugar and butter, it has a good deal of protein from the peanut butter. Right?

Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter -- we used the grind-it-yourself peanut butter from Whole Foods.
1 cup light brown sugar -- we substituted vegan sugar with no problem.
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of bashed up pretzels
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. 
Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugar until well combined. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined. In separate bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Stir to mix. Slowly add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, stirring until smooth and well blended. (Note: Do not overmix.) Add pretzels (and any other add-in's you want). 
Form golf-ball size balls and place evenly on the prepared cookie sheet -- about 3 inches apart. Chill the dough for approximately 10 minutes ( you could definitely skip this step if it's winter or if you live somewhere cooler than Texas!) Using back of fork press flat.(Note: Each cookie should be 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick.) 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (10 to 12 minutes for soft, chewy cookies) or until golden brown. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes on baking sheets. Remove to baking rack. Cool completely.

Optional add-in's: Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks. Chopped peanuts. Toffee bits. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Morning in Edom

I spent a fun hour or so in Edom, Texas this morning. I love these tiny towns that seem to be bursting with artists. One is the man who makes these AMAZING birdhouses/fairy houses. You can see other examples here... I hate myself for saying this, but there are days I'd like to be able to make something like this so much I'd be willing to trade my writing for it. Of course, then I shake myself and remind myself to be thankful for what I have and thankful that there are such amazing artists out there making things simply because they are beautiful. 

I love that. Art just to make art. 

That is what I keep telling myself today. I will make art for art's sake. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Homemade Cadbury eggs

Okay, this was one of those -- WOW! Let's do that even though we could just pop down to the grocery store and buy them for like a dollar. It's way fun and not terribly hard to do.... and just think now we don't have to wait all year for these!

  • (1/2 cup) light corn syrup 
  • (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • (3 cups) confectioner's powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • yellow food coloring
  • 1 (12 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips -- we used semi-sweet. You could also use tinted white chocolate. That would be sort of awesome.
To make actual hollow eggs with the filling inside, you'll need to acquire some egg molds.  Alternatively, you can form the filling and dip it in the chocolate. We did the dipping method. It just seemed easier... although probably less 'pretty'.

Another idea would be to put these on sticks like lollipops, but I'm thinking that might just ruin the sticky fingered awesomeness...

Garden fun

It's just too beautiful here to stay inside all of the time, so we've taken some of our projects outside. Of course the beginning of the week was horrible: tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, trees falling on houses. But now it's beautiful. And the upside of the rain has been that our veggie garden is going nuts!
This year we are growing: peas, purple green beans (do you still call them green beans?), honeydew melon, cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and well blah blah blah. The really interesting part is the scarecrow we pulled together out of an old, rusty trashcan, plastic Easter eggs, a old pot, and some assorted kitchen gadgets. Here he is... isn't he beautiful?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dalek Easter Eggs

These are possibly the most dangerous Easter eggs ever.

I knew I had officially crossed over into Geekville when I actually had a very strong opinion about whether the Dalek or the Cybermen would win in a battle.

Me: "Well, of course it would be the Dalek. I mean, they defeated the Time Lords."

In case you haven't discovered the wonder and awesomeness of Doctor Who, you MUST. Old episodes are available on amazon and you can get all of the discs from Netflix.

Here's the latest:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Downton Abbey

I heart Downton Abbey. Sigh. I just spent the weekend watching a marathon session of Season 2 with my sister and my oldest niece. It was AWESOME. I do have to agree, however, that it wasn’t as good as Season 1. It seems like that always happens. A show rocks its first season, then somewhere it loses its way. There were, of course, amazingly funny moments. And moments that I swear I was close to tears. But there were also a number of storylines that just seemed to plod along and then disappear, leaving me wondering why they were there to begin with.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m a huge Anglophile. I’ve passed this obsession along to Harrison as well, who has decided that he is going to try to bring hats back. He’s been wearing his fedora almost constantly. Now he wants a chauffer’s hat like Branson.
The plan for me is to re-watch Season 2 without interruption so that I can savor it. I cannot wait until Season 3. Is that wrong?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ideas and Black Bean Brownies

The number one question that I get from people when they find out I am an author is this: “Where do you get your ideas?” I’ve been up for about four hours today – the first hour doesn’t really count as it was spent feeding my cat, staring at the coffee maker in an effort to make it brew faster (this doesn’t work), and reading. However in just three hours I’ve been able to tuck several things away in my head that may or may not come out in a book someday.

Things to think about:
  1.  Do anything you can that promotes creativity – for instance brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.
  2. What do people who put up Christmas lights for a living do in the off-season?
  3. Why has no one invented square or triangular crayons? I mean, come on.
  4.  Who decided that blue raspberry was a flavor?
  5.  Would one list “Rose Queen” under employment history on her résumé?

Things I saw/heard:
  1.  A girl “hock a big loogie” on the ground and her boyfriend gaze at her lovingly and say, “Nice one, Babe.”
  2.  A guy who has chosen to live with a severe lisp because he wanted to get his tongue pierced.
  3. Two squirrels sitting on my back fence while unknowingly making a heart shape with their tails.
  4.  The words “git her done” repeated over and over in a non-ironic way.
  5.  A recipe for black bean brownies that I may have to try.

Okay, this is just a short list and possibly not a very useful one, but when people ask me the other question that hits the top five with some regularity (how can I become a writer?), I tell them to PAY ATTENTION. I also tell them to read, read, and then read some more. That and git her done.

As for the brownies... they are actually pretty good. I KNOW! They aren't the best brownies I've ever had, but those come with a side of sugar crash and a serving of guilt. These, while not health food, are pretty yummy.

Black Bean Brownies


  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 eggs
  • One very ripe banana (or 1/2 cup canned pumpkin -- I'll try pumpkin next... might be good.)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (I'm sure you could substitute agave or another sweetener, but results may vary. 
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.
  2. Combine the black beans, eggs, banana, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, sugar, and instant coffee in a blender (or food processor). Blend until smooth. 
  3. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Top with nuts or chocolate chips (or both or neither).
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are just pulling away from the sides. (About 30 minutes). Don't over bake!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beet Cake -- Seriously

I know it sounds bizarre, but then think of all the things we eat now and don't even think about it. Artichokes? Fiddle Ferns? Buddha's Hand? (Okay, this weekend my friend, Kathy, and I were told that this last one really is a novelty and that we'd probably be better off using Meyer Lemons. ) But anyway...I'll post my recipe, but you must see this video. If you love it like I do, take a look at their other videos at tiger in a jar

So, here is my version of Beet Cake:

Chocolate Beet Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz's website
I'm always looking for new ways to use familiar ingredients. Harrison is fairly used to this by now. But even he looked at me sideways when I told him I wanted to make beet cake. 
8 oz beets, unpeeled, rinsed and scrubbed free of dirt (You can use canned beets (infinitely more simple, but if you haven't roasted beets yourself, you might try it.)
7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup hot espresso (or water) -- even very strong regular coffee would be good here
7 oz butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (the darkest you can find, natural or Dutch-process)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup superfine sugar -- no need to buy superfine sugar. Just whirl your granulated sugar in a food processor or blender for a few moments.
1. Butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch  springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. If you don't have this, use a lightly greased and parchment lined 8 inch cake pan (round or square).
2. Boil the beets in salted water with the lid askew until they’re very tender when you stick a knife in them about 45 minutes. Drain then rinse the beets with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slip off the peels, cut the beets into chunks, and grind them in a food processor until you get a coarse, yet cohesive, puree. (If you don’t have a food processor, use a cheese grater.) If you are using canned beets, skip all of the cooking and just puree them. 
3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring as little as possible. You can also do this in the microwave, but be very careful that you don't scorch your chocolate.
4. Add the butter to the warm chocolate and let them melt together.
5. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
6. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter is melted. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir the egg yolks together and briskly stir them into the melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the beets.
7. In a stand mixer, or by hand, whip the egg whites until stiff. Gradually fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula, then fold them into the melted chocolate mixture, being careful not to overmix.
8. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.
9. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and reduce the heat of the oven to 325ºF, and bake the cake for , or until the sides are just set but the center is still is just a bit wobbly. Do not overbake.
Let cake cool completely, then remove it from the pan.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kitchen Sink Cookies

This was a crazy weekend. My sister, her oldest, her youngest, Harrison, and I all visited my mother this weekend. It was a blast, but at some point I think I lost my mind because during dinner preparation on Saturday, there were six people in my mother's 10 x 10 kitchen. I was making two versions of gingerbread (Yes, two.) My mom was actually cooking dinner. My sister was cutting up fruit for a salad with one hand and holding her daughter with the other. And the boys decide they want to "make something -- something weird." Sigh. We land on kitchen sink cookies --probably not my most inspired moment, but we had limited time (no Harrison, we aren't going to make Danish pastry), limited resources (Yes, the chocolate chip cricket recipe looks interesting, Ryan, but we don't have any crickets), and limited space (the two of you get this much -- 2 feet -- of counter. Keep the mess here .)

So, here's the basic recipe. Below are some of the wonderful add-in's the boys decided to use.

1 stick of softened butter (salted is fine, but then leave out the additional salt)
1/2 c brown sugar -- I like dark brown, but go with what you like
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla -- yes, pure vanilla.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 c plus 2T whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt


  1. Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until incorporated completely.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the flours, soda, and salt and stir until combined.
  3. Gently fold the dries into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir until barely combined. Don't over mix -- they'll be chewy and awful. 
  4. Gently mix in as many or as few add-in's as you want.
  5. Mound evenly spaced on a lined baking sheet. And bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.
Harrison's creation: cheddar goldfish, broken OREO's, potato chips, chocolate chips
Ryan's creation: smashed banana, honey, chocolate chips, pecans

Other ideas: broken candy bars, dried fruit, nuts, pretzels, crackers. You can get really wild and add in some herbs... pecans with rosemary sounds yummy to me. Citrus zest, gummy candy, caramels, sea salt, black pepper, coffee grounds, oatmeal... 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A new year -- a new book and roasted vegetable cake

YAY! Love? Maybe is finally out. I am so, so happy. This was definitely a long haul with lots of different editors and drafts. But, this time around I really learned attention to detail and how to be patient (two lessons I pretty much hate.) I think it came out really great though. Here it is:

From the cover of Love? Maybe:
Just because Piper's birthday is on Valentine's Day does not mean she's a romantic. In fact, after watching her father and then her stepfather leave, she's pretty sure she doesn't believe in love at all. Then her friends concoct a plan to find them all Valentine's dates, and somehow Piper finds herself with the most popular guy in school. But true love never follows a plan, and a string of heartfelt gifts from a secret admirer has Piper wondering if she might be with the wrong guy. 

In this heartwarming romance, true love is more than a maybe - and it might be closer than you think.

Every year I have this urge to go back through all of the photos I've taken over the months. There are a few that stand out. Here's one from Halloween. It makes me smile. One ninja and one? Ummm. Well, I just pulled some things out of my garden and added a couple of fake bumble bees and butterflies.

This week we made something new --roasted vegetable cake. I know it sounds gross, but it was AWESOME. We messed with it a lot from the original recipe, adding more carrots and taking out the sweet potato. I know... I just don't like sweet potato. I know I should because it's so good for you, but I just don't.

So here it is. We're going to focus on Valentine's over the next few weeks both because of my new novel and because I do like any chance to give  out (and receive!) candy.

Roasted Vegetable Cake
Courtesy of


  • 8 eggs
  • small container of part skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese (we used low fat, but you could use fat free (eww) or regular.
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to taste
  • 4 Tolive oil for drizzling over the vegetables
  • 2 grams butter to saute the spinach
  • 3 large waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced (this is where the sweet potato comes in if you want to substitute one or more for the regular potatoes.)
  • 1 red pepper, roasted, skin removed (or do what I did -- I just bought a jar of roasted red peppers.)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large carrots diced
  • 6-8 oz baby spinach leaves

  1. Place the eggs, ricotta, cream cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a food processor and mix until smooth -- With a minimum of help, H was able to do everything with the food processor -- easy and it was fun for him.) If you don't have a food processor, all of this can be done by hand. It just takes more time.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Peel and slice the potatoes (and sweet potato if you are using one.) Drizzle with some olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough that you can pierce through them with a fork.
  3. If you are roasting the peppers yourself, char each pepper over an open flame using a pair of tongs. When the peppers have blackened, place them in a large bowl and cover with clingwrap for a few minutes. Carefully peel the skin off the peppers. Otherwise, you can use store bought peppers as well.
  4. Heat a pan with some olive oil and saute the carrots and onions until soft.
  5. Heat a pan with some butter and lightly saute the spinach. Remove from heat and set aside. (You can just use the same pan as above. No need to clean it. Just dump the onions and carrots out.)
  6. In a large round cake pan (I used a nine-inch spring form pan.), layer the potato slices, the sweet potato, red peppers, cubed pumpkin, and then pour over the egg mixture. Finally, add the sauteed spinach. Allow the mixture to settle for around ten minutes.
  7. Bake the frittata for around 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when you insert this through the center of the cake.
  8. Remove from the oven and slice and eat it.
Options: I think when we make it again (and we will -- it was YUM!) I'll add some browned and chopped veggie bacon -- of course you could use regular bacon -- we're veggie in my household. I also think adding some green vegetables like roasted asparagus or broccoli.