Monday, December 31, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Lemon & Herb Roasted Chicken

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Crockpot Monday - Lemon & Herb Roasted Chicken
Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! I cannot believe that in less than a day it will be 2019. Where has this year gone? I hope that you can make today a day of family, friends, and relaxation.

Lemon & Herb Roasted Chicken:

Ingredients:
One thawed whole chicken
Head of garlic
2 lemons
salt and pepper
bunch of fresh rosemary

Directions:

Rub your chicken inside and out with a bunch of salt and pepper. Add it into the crockpot. Peel your garlic and shove a bunch of the whole cloves into the bird cavity and throw some more on top and around the chicken.

Slice the lemon and put slices on top, around, and inside the bird.  Wash the rosemary and do the same. If you are using dried rosemary, use a good amount---probably 2-3 tablespoons of dried herbs.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Enjoy an easy dinner before watching the ball drop and welcoming in 2019!




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Monday, December 24, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Herb Garden Chicken

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The one thing that I really missed this past summer was having my herb garden. Life looked at me and giggled when I even thought about putting one in. Still, I can find those bits of summer even when winter is starting to sink its cold claws in!

Herb Garden Chicken:

Ingredients:
1 (5-pound) whole chicken
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:
In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the spices with the Parmesan cheese and set aside. Rub the olive oil all over the bird, inside and out, and place it into an empty crockpot.

Sprinkle on the cheese and herb mixture, and rub it into all sides of the bird, shoving a bunch inside. Do not add water.

Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 to 5.

Merry Christmas Eve! I hope that it's a time of celebration and love for all of you.





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Monday, December 17, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Fried Chicken

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Crockpot Monday - Fried Chicken
I can't believe that the year is almost gone! I need some comfort food to help me deal with that fact. How about some fried chicken, mashed tatos, and corn? Not a single super healthy thing in there and that screams comfort food to me.

Fried Chicken:

Ingredients:
18 thawed drumsticks (or however many will fit nicely into your crockpot)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
 1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Combine all the spices and the flour in a freezer bag or in a shallow dish. Dredge each chicken piece well, and place into your crockpot. When all the chicken is in the crockpot, pour 1/4 cup of melted butter over it.

Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8-10.

Then sit back, dream of warmer days and summer picnics.





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Monday, December 10, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Ultimate Breakfast Casserole

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Crockpot Monday: Ultimate Breakfast Casserole
Are you buried deep in holiday prep yet? Is your tree up? I'm going to let you in on a little secret. We aren't putting up a tree this year. 2018 has been a lot of chaos for our little family and all of our holiday decorations are in chaos in the barn. I'm not even totally sure that we'll be together this year for it. Still, we will find a day for the three of us together and I can promise delicious food!

Ultimate Breakfast Casserole:

Ingredients:
12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 cups toasted (or stale) bread cubes
2 cups shredded cheese
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
8 eggs
1.5 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: 

This is a large recipe so you’re going to need your big crockpot!

 Cook bacon to desired doneness, and toast the bread. Set these aside. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray, and set that aside, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded cheese, mushrooms, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.

Put the bread cubes into the bottom of your sprayed slow cooker, and pour the egg mixture evenly over the entire thing. Place bacon pieces on top.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for about 3-4 hours or until eggs are done. When the eggs have completely set, and your casserole has begun to brown on top and pull away from the sides, take the lid off the cooker and let the steam and moisture evaporate for about 15 minutes before serving.





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Monday, December 3, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Spinach and Feta Quiche

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Holy wow...it's December already. Where the heck has this year gone? Have you started your shopping or are you a last minute shopper? Me? I'm trying really hard this year to get all the shopping done and then doing a marathon wrapping session after a delicious breakfast.

Spinach and Feta Quiche:
Ingredients:
6 ounce bag of baby spinach
1/2 onion, minced
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 of a 4oz block of feta
1 1/3 cup of milk

Directions:

Butter or spray your crockpot insert. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg, flour, and cayenne. Add the onion and spinach to the bowl, and stir until all of the spinach leaves have a bit of the mixture on them. Pour into the crock, and shove down the spinach leaves with a wooden spoon.

Crumble the 1/2 block of feta over the top.

Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, or on high for about 4. This is done when the edges are brown, and start to pull away from the sides of the crock. Check with a knife to make sure the eggs are fully cooked.

Unplug and let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.





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Monday, November 26, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Pumpkin Granola

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Crockpot Monday: Pumpkin Granola
I love pumpkin spice flavored anything. I love granola. Of course if you combine those two things, I'm in love! This is so good mixed into yogurt! I need to make a new batch very, very soon.

Pumpkin Granola:

Ingredients:
5 cups of rolled oats
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 to 3/4 cup honey (start with the smaller amount)
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup dried cranberries/raisins or mixture (add last hour)
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Stir everything but the dried fruit in. The honey will be gloppy, just stir the best you can. Cover and cook in a vented crockpot (prop lid open with chopstick or wooden spoon) on high for 4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. Add dried fruit in the last 30-minutes to an hour.

Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in either the fridge or the freezer.


There are so many ways to use this...sprinkled on ice cream, yogurt, by itself....Let me know your favorite way!





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Monday, November 19, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole

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Crockpot Monday: Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole
I love breakfast. I think there are times when I would eat it 3x a day and be quite happy doing so. This recipe is one that makes for a great brunch treat. With the holidays upon us, consider using your crockpot to handle breakfasts or other things so that you can focus on your family and friends as much as possible. After all, the food at the holidays is just a bonus and not the prize.

Egg, Feta, and Mushroom Casserole:

Ingredients:
1 dozen eggs
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 pound sliced portabella mushrooms (or other "fancy" mushroom)
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 block feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Sauté the mushrooms and bell pepper in a frying pan on the stove in a bit of olive oil or butter until they are wilted and tender. Spray the inside of your crock with cooking spray, and add the cooked mushrooms, bell pepper, and the mushroom juice (left from cooking your mushrooms).

Crumble in the entire block of feta cheese.

In a large bowl, crack all 12 eggs, and mix with a fork. Add the pepper to the eggs and mix.

Pour the egg on top of the feta and veggies.

Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours







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Monday, November 12, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Breakfast Risotto

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Crockpot Breakfast Risotto
Every time I watch a cooking show and they make risotto, I go, "oooooh...." because it always looks amazing! Do you have one of those food items that always makes you drool?

Breakfast Risotto:

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
3 small apples
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups of liquid – You can combine juice and milk for this or just use milk.

Directions:

Turn your crockpot to high and add the butter so it can start melting. Wash and cut up your apples. Add the rice to the butter, and stir it around to coat it nicely. If the butter isn't completely melted, don't worry.

Add the apples, and spices. Stir in the juice/milk.

Cover and cook on high for 3-5 hours, or on low for 6 or so.


With the holidays coming, I keep thinking that this would be a perfect set it and forget it breakfast.  If you try it, let me know! I've been tempted to try adding raisins the next time that I make it.





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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wordsmith Wednesday: On Rewriting Introductions

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Welcome back to Wordsmith Wednesday! This week, we're lucky enough to have Leah McNaughton Lederman joining us to share with us about rewriting introductions. I don't want to keep you from her so let's jump right in!

------------------

That’s just it. You’re going to have to do it.
Every now and again, like the mythical “perfect title,” you roll out a first paragraph to half page that makes the whole piece of writing. Like, it doesn’t matter where you go from there because your beginning was so marvelous.
But that’s like waiting to catch Sasquatch with a butterfly net.  (Not gonna happen.)
More than likely, your introduction was you getting to know your piece. Feeling out the character’s voice, getting the tone for the work. Shaking hands.
How can you introduce a piece of writing you haven’t met yet?
Some of you may have outlined and completed character sketches, etc. (I’m a pantser), but even if you have prepared for this piece of writing for a year, it’s like you’ve been online dating. There’s no substitute for meeting face to face, which is what you’re doing when you set pen to paper, keyboard to screen.
The first few paragraphs are the two of you saying hello, exchanging awkward smiles and rehearsed-in-the-mirror quips. You’re not finishing each other’s sentences yet.
You’ll get there. Plunge through and get into the rhythm. Feel that satisfaction when you enter the last period.
Fin.
Lean back and enjoy it.
And know that one of your first tasks when it comes to revision is rewriting the introduction.
There are lists out there of things “not to do” in your introduction. Like any such set of rules, most of them can be thrown out the window. As long as you do something well, the rules don’t matter.
Starting with “riveting” dialogue. The main character is a female and she’s running late (and probably dropping things, since us girls are so clumsy). There’s a car crash (with gratuitous sound effect). You have a page long inner monologue summarizing the character’s childhood.
Cliches exist, yo. And they hurt your writing.
How?
By making me not want to read your writing. Because I don’t care about your character or find the story interesting.
I went to the Indiana writer’s conference back in February (https://indianawritingworkshop.com/) and participated in a “Chapter One Critique Fest.”
Here’s the deal—you submit a copy of your first chapter (without your name on it) and a moderator reads it out loud to a panel of three agents. The agents pretend they’re reading from their “slush pile” raise their hand at the point when they would stop reading and reject. The modersator would continue reading until all three agents raised their hands, then each of them would explain why they stopped.
Their reasons?
A clumsy girl running late.
Obnoxious dialogue.
Car crash.
Being a prologue and not a first chapter (lots of agents hate prologues).
Death of a character (we don’t know them well enough to care, so don’t force us to care).
Inner monologuing.
Mine was in there, too. The introduction to my cousin’s memoir that I’d worked on for over a year. The first thing I wrote down “officially” as part of the book and man, I thought it was gold.

We always had bicycles growing up, my Dad made sure of it. His favorite bikes were Schwinn, of course, and when I was five, right around the time my parents got divorced, I got the green Stingray. Banana seat, the whole deal.
This was the real thing, and I rode it backwards and forwards, hands in the air, uphill and downhill all through the neighborhood for years. I rode it down the hill leading to the lake, taking my hands off the handlebars and feeling the breeze against my skin. It never got old.
Man, I loved that bike.
I thought about it often well into my adulthood; it was a happy childhood memory. And, well, now I think about it knowing that I’ll never ride a bike again. There’s a shadow on my outlook, sure, but it’s still a happy memory, and nothing can change that or take that away from me.
I had a badass, green, Stingray Schwinn. And I conquered the world with it, one Michigan hill at a time. 

I was relieved to find that at least the agents’ hands didn’t shoot into the air right away. Two of them held on nearly halfway through until the reading was scrapped. In discussion, they noted that while they enjoyed the writing and the pace, it didn’t lead them anywhere, and there was nothing tangible in the text, nothing to grab them and pull them into the story—that’s just it: This doesn’t tell you that the story is about a quadruple amputee, and here she is reminiscing about her beloved childhood bike. 

There was no story in my introduction.

And that’s the version of the opening I’d already sent to a dozen agents without a single reply, though in face-to-face pitch meetings I’d received very positive responses. The story was good; the introduction, or opening, was not. I rewrote it, though it was like tweezing my upper lip (a process I don’t practice and certainly don’t recommend), and that’s when I started hearing back from agents.
Sitting in on that exercise changed my writing life. It changed how I read and write introductions by reaffirming what my graduate professor once told the class, regarding the introductions to our papers—when you’ve finished the paper, go back and revise the introduction. It matches the paper you intended to write, not the one that actually came out.




Leah McNaughton Lederman is an author and freelance editor in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband, three children, three cats, and dog. She spends her free time working on memoir snippets and short stories, some of which are published. 

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Yogurt

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Have you ever made your own yogurt? Every so often I get this itch to experiment with something new. Sometimes that's a good thing...sometimes... Well, life should be a bit of an adventure, right?

Yogurt:

Ingredients:
8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk
1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt
frozen/fresh fruit for flavoring
thick bath towel
crockpot

Directions:

This takes a while. Make your yogurt on a day when you’ll be home to keep an eye on it.

Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2.5 hours.

Unplug your crockpot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.

When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crockpot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.

Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened. Blend in batches with your favorite fruit. When you blend in the fruit, bubbles will form. They aren't a big deal, and will settle eventually.

Chill in a plastic container in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup (unflavored) as a starter to make a new batch and next time you won’t need to purchase a live culture.


If you try this, let me know what you thought!




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Friday, November 2, 2018

Book Review: The Laird of Duncairn

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The Laird of Duncairn by Craig Comer
The year is 1882 Scotland, and the auld alliance betwixt king and fey has long been forgotten. Men of science, backed by barons of industry, push the boundaries of technology. When Sir Walter Conrad discovers a new energy source, one that could topple nations and revolutionize society, the race to dominate its ownership begins. But the excavation and use of this energy source will have dire consequences for both humans and fey. For an ancient enemy stirs, awakened by Sir Walter's discovery.

Outcast half-fey Effie of Glen Coe is the Empire's only hope at averting the oncoming disaster. Effie finds herself embroiled in the conflict, investigating the eldritch evil spreading throughout the Highlands. As she struggles against the greed of mighty lords and to escape the clutches of the queen's minions, her comfortable world is shattered. Racing to thwart the growing menace, she realizes the only thing that can save them all is a truce no one wants.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I feel like it's been quite a while since I read a fantasy novel so between that urge and the fact that this one was Gaelic in nature, I couldn't resist picking it up.

The Good:

I really enjoyed the plot of this book and the characters that I met along the way as I read it. This book isn't listed as steampunk but it definitely has those elements in it and I think that they added to what was already happening. I appreciated how the author worked the characters backstories in without it feeling intrusive or distracting from the overall plot.

The Bad:

I'm afraid that this book very much dragged at places and that the pacing felt off more than once. There is also at least one character that was introduced and I won't spoil what happens with him, but, in the end, he felt like filler and I found myself incredibly disappointed that we didn't see more of him. I think he could have been a great way to introduce more of the lore into the story.

The Summary:

Overall, I would say that this was a good first book to a series. I'm hoping that the author got his fidgets out and that book 2 will be even better. I enjoyed the lore and I'm hoping that there's more of that to come. If you enjoy steampunk, historical fantasy, or any mix of those two, give this one a shot. Just be warned that it's quite long and won't be a one evening read.






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Pancakes and Corpses

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Book Review - Pancakes and Corpses - Agatha Frost
Anyone else hungry?
Soon to be divorced Julia South never expected to be caught up in solving a murder, until she discovered the body of her cafe's most awkward customer. With a new smug Detective Inspector in town who underestimates her every move, Julia makes it her mission to discover the real murderer, before her village friends are dragged into the frame, and more bodies are discovered.


A light, cozy mystery read with a cat loving and cafe owning female amateur sleuth, in a small village setting with quirky characters. No cliffhanger, swearing, gore or graphic scenes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sometimes you just need a no pressure, cozy book to curl up with on a rainy day and I found mine in Pancakes and Corpses.

The Good:

While this book takes place in England, I think that anyone from a small town can related to the characters and situations within this book. I enjoyed the uniqueness of each character and how the author portrays each of their individual personalities. The story moved at a quick pace and dropped just enough clues that the ending wasn't shocking, but wasn't predicted in chapter three.

The Bad:

I don't know why but I really dislike the name Barker Brown. It just rubs me the wrong way. Other than that, my other negatives are really minor. I spotted a few misspelled/incorrect words but they weren't enough to pull me out of the story. I think it would also be really nice if the author included a recipe or two at the back of the book. After all, the main character is a baker and from what I've seen, all of the books in this series has something to do with food.

The Summary:

A perfect rainy day read. The pace is quick but nothing feels glossed over. The romance aspect felt a bit obvious, but there's nothing wrong with that! I'm looking forward to picking up more books in this series and learning more about the characters. 






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Monday, October 29, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Orange Chipotle Ribs

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It's the end of the month already! How does this keep happening? Can you believe it's only 2 days until Halloween? I wish that I lived in an area that got a lot of trick or treaters. I've never outgrown my love for this holiday. Who knows...maybe next year I'll start rebuilding my yard display...until then...yummy food!

Orange Chipotle Ribs:

Ingredients:
3 pounds beef ribs
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cloves smashed and chopped garlic

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, mix together everything except for the ribs. Place the ribs into your crockpot and pour the sauce over top.

Close and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or on high for 5-6. The meat is done when it has reached the desired tenderness and is no longer pink.


Then, once they're done, try to resist grabbing one and eating it right over the crockpot! Instead, serve them up with a veggie and maybe even some rice and enjoy!





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Friday, October 26, 2018

Book Review: The Blood That Binds

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Book Review - The Blood That Binds - Jo Ho
I love these covers!
Blood never lies… unless what you’re seeing isn’t real.

A new urban fantasy series from the award-winning screenwriter of ground-breaking BBC TV series Spirit Warriors.

After a trip to a place of magic seemingly leaves the girls with more questions than answers, Tyler takes off to spend some much needed time with Ally only for danger to have followed them with potentially devastating consequences for the sisters.

Meanwhile, Marley has family problems of her own. Realizing that she has never known anything about either side of her family, she broaches the subject only for Paul to evade her questions. Why is he keeping secrets from her, what doesn’t he want her to know?

With the other girls preoccupied with their own issues, Eve takes the opportunity to try to mend bridges with Cassie. What should be a nice dinner out turns into an ordeal, however, when an unwanted chance encounter causes more antagonism between them. As Cassie tries to deal with the aftermath the only way she knows how, she just makes things worse.

Frustrated with the way things have gone down, Eve retreats home but finds herself confronted with the very secret she thought was dead and buried…

Will the girls be able to defeat their own personal demons before the real ones catch up with them?

Saving the world has never been this Twisted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I'm not a big fan of serials and yet, I can't stop myself from choosing this series over and over again. It seems that I need to know what happens next!

The Good:

I'm enjoying seeing more and more of the girls' backstories. They're interesting characters in themselves which is nice to see in a "group" setting.

The Bad:

I'm just not feeling the interpersonal relationships in this segment as much as I did the others. Also, while I'm enjoying the bits of the "original" four, I really would like to see more. I'm hoping that as we get further in, more of the backstory will be revealed.

The Summary:

I'm still really enjoying this series. I would warn you to read them as back to back as possible. I had to let a month or so go by in between this and the 3rd and found myself confused for the first bit as to who was who and what they were doing. 





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments,and opinions are my own.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Orange Beef

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I'm a sucker for sweet and citrusy and this week, my youngest son will be finding out the results of his audition to be a member of the Kalamazoo Youth Jazz Orchestra so I'm hoping that this will serve as a celebration dinner. Fingers crossed!

Orange Beef:

Ingredients:
1.5 pounds beef round steak, sliced or beef stir fry strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup orange juice
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
6 green onions, sliced
1 small head bok choy, cut in 1-inch chunks
Cooked white or brown basmati rice for serving

Directions:

For absolute best results, marinate the meat the night before in a plastic bag with the sauce ingredients (soy sauce, honey, ginger, and orange juice). In the morning, dump the contents into an empty crockpot and add the vegetables on top.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, high for 3-4, or until meat is fully cooked and super tender. Serve over rice with the juices left in the crockpot.

Keep your fingers crossed for him. He loves performing with this group and it doesn't hurt on the college applications!






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Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Review: Swell Time For a Swing Dance

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Swell Time For a Swing Dance
December 31, 1941. Young Houston socialite Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., can’t imagine a better way to send off the old year and ring in the new than by dancing through the night with her fella, Pete Stalwart. But a swell evening soon takes a terrible turn when a fellow dancer with moves like Fred Astaire ends up dead on the dance floor. And before the hands on the clock can point to midnight, a finger is pointed at Pete, accusing him of murdering the young man.

Then after Pete is hauled away in handcuffs, the night goes from bad to worse . . . and Tracy’s sweet grandmother is accused of stealing an ancient artifact from the museum. Now Tracy must team up with her boss and mentor, Sammy Falcone, in order to find the stolen statuette, unmask the real murderer, and restore the reputations of those she loves the most.

Yet as America becomes embroiled in another world war, the risks and sacrifices intensify—even on the homefront. And Tracy soon finds her own home invaded by a near parade of questionable characters, while unsavory suspects lurk in the shadows, and a ruthless reporter makes her life miserable. With time ticking against her, Tracy must be willing to swing past the setbacks and hop through the hazards if she hopes to solve a mystery that involves a lot of dancing . . . and a lot more danger.

~~~~~~~~~
Y'all know that I've been a long time fan of Cindy's writing. I would read Buckley and Bogey all day, every day if I could. This is my first foray into her Homefront Mystery series though. In fact, this is book 2 and somehow I haven't read book 1 yet! Luckily, while reading book 1 may help with knowing the characters a bit more, this book completely works as a stand alone.

Outside of my son's love of Jazz, I don't really know a lot about the 1940s so seeing all of the references within the book really helped for me to feel as if I were alongside the characters as they worked to solve the mystery of who did what and to who! I love the individuality of each of the characters. It really brings them to life.

If I had one complaint, it would be that Tracy spends an incredible amount of time referencing her favorite book series. It got a tad old for me but as soon as I'd sigh, the story would move on and I'd be sucked right back into the pages! If you're in the mood for an old timey mystery, this series would be a great one to start with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now for even more excitement! The author is doing a giveaway during this blog tour and you don't want to miss out on the opportunity to win some goodies, so be sure to enter! Oh! And silly me, I forgot to mention that she's made this book free on Kindle for the duration of the blog tour! Head on over to Amazon and get it today!



a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and happy reading!



I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own. 

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wordsmith Wednesday: Want to Get a Real Feel for the Forties? | Cindy Vincent

9:03 AM 1 Comments
Get a Real Feel For the Forties


Thank you, Katrina, for hosting me here today!  As I’m sure you know, I have a real fascination with the 1940s.  And having released my second WWII mystery novel, Swell Time for a Swing Dance, I think I’ve also racked up about a gazillion hours doing research!  Now people ask me how they might find out more about the era.  So here’s my recommended “quick list,” for those who want to get a real feel for the forties . . . and WWII.

I’d suggest that people start by watching these old black-and-white movies:

1.  Casablanca

First on my list is, of course, one of the most famous movies of all time, Casablanca.  With the war as a backdrop, we see the romance between Rick and Ilsa, and one of the most iconic final scenes ever shown on the silver screen . . . or on your big screen TV, as the case may be.  Be sure to get out the tissues, because you’re going to need them, folks!  As an author, I also find this movie to be very skillfully and tightly plotted.

2.  Mrs. Miniver

This movie shows what life was like in England during the war, and especially during the Blitz, those horrible months when Hitler bombed England—relentlessly. 

3.  Since You Went Away

This movie has some similarities to Mrs. Miniver, but it’s set on the American homefront during the war. 

4.  Confessions of a Nazi Spy

Based on the real-life case of Rumrich Nazi spy ring in the U.S., the term “Fifth Column” is mentioned.  Fifth Column essentially refers to enemies already within a country, ready to help take over when their army invades.

5.  Stormy Weather

This one is purely for fun, with fantastic music by Fats Waller, Lena Horn, and my favorite, Cab Calloway. Here’s a clip with Cab Calloway and the Williams Brothers:

6.  The Maltese Falcon 

Yup, I’ve just recommended another Bogart film.  It couldn’t be helped, since this movie was considered the best mystery/thriller of the year.  And believe me, you won’t really “get” Bogart until you see him as Sam Spade. 

Now that you’ve watched all these movies, let’s move on to some books.  While there are tons and tons of books written about WWII, here are a few of my favorites: 

1.  Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson

2.  Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson

3.  Wolves at the Door by Judith Pearson

4.  The Hollywood Canteen by Lisa Mitchell and Bruce Torrence

5.  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Last, I’d suggest visiting a museum or two. 

1.  If you’re ever in New Orleans, please take time out to visit the National WWII Museum.  Not only is it one of the top museums in the country, but it’ll give you an education like nothing else.  It’s really one of the best ways to learn about the war. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/

Here’s a bit about the movie that’s shown there every hour.  I’ve seen it several times, and I never leave dry-eyed.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUIxPagAI5s

2.  Finally, here’s a link to the Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas, another excellent museum to visit.

And there you have it, my quick list for learning more about the forties and WWII!


Thanks again, Katrina, for hosting me. I always enjoy your blogs, and I have to say—I truly envy your cooking skills!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And thank you to Cynthia, for joining me here this week! I've been a fan of hers for ages and blessed enough to be friends with her on Facebook. I'll be reviewing her new book Swell Time For a Swing Dance on Friday so make sure you stop by and also, swing over to Amazon and download the book yourself!

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Mongolian Beef

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Every so often I just crave something a little bit different than the things we make around here. I know that you know how it is. You're super busy and you don't want to spend a million years cooking but you still want something delicious when you walk in the door after a long day...Enter....

Mongolian Beef:

Ingredients:

FOR THE MEAT:
1.5 pounds flank steak
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 sliced green onions – set one aside for garnish
1 teaspoon dried minced onion (or 1/2 fresh onion, diced very small)

SAUCE:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup cooking sherry
1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon peanut butter (if allergic, use black bean paste)
3 tablespoons brown sugar

AND THEN:
1/4 cup cornstarch (to dredge meat -don't add to sauce mixture!)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)


Directions:

Slice meat into thin strips and toss in a Ziploc bag with cornstarch. Add all of the liquid and dried spices to your crockpot, and then the peanut butter, and mix well. Add the garlic and three of the sliced green onions. If you are using fresh onion, add that now, too. Place meat on top and carefully toss to coat.

Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Flank steak is thin and has very little fat, and will cook quickly. There isn't a lot of liquid in this dish, so if your crockpot tends to cook hot, check it after 3 hours.
The meat is done when it is no longer pink and has reached desired tenderness. Serve over rice and garnish with freshly sliced green onion.


I know that seems like a lot of ingredients but it goes together super fast! I haven't tried it yet, but I'm guessing that this would make a great prep in advance and freeze meal. Just keep your dredged meat in a separate bag from your sauce.  If you try it that way, let me know. I'd love to hear how it turned out!





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Friday, October 12, 2018

Book Review: See No Evil

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The End of the world is coming yet Marley doesn’t even know what she is much less what she can do.

A new urban fantasy series from the award-winning screenwriter of ground-breaking BBC TV series Spirit Warriors.


With the First Seal broken, Marley and the girls finally learn what Michael is up to… and it isn’t good. Christian is more determined than ever that they put a stop to him but is avenging his mentor more important to him than the girls’ own lives?


Tyler finally starts her new job but gets quickly into trouble. Exhausted by everything she must do, she uses her power to secretly brew up her first potion. It’s just a little something to get her through the day, she’s positive it isn’t going to be a problem…


After Eve says some hurtful things, Cassie uses her powers to escape her own insecurities, but when a cute guy hits on her for the first time in her life, all bets are off.


While the others try to deal with their issues, Marley has some big problems of her own: specifically, the terrifying ghost that keeps coming after her until Marley decides to take drastic measures in a bid to drown out all of her unwanted visitors, a move which ends up leaving her in terrible danger.


All the while, Michael is making big moves towards his evil grand plan…


Saving the world has never been this Twisted!

Fans of The Mortal Instruments, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars will love this thrilling new series.


Just like your favorite TV series, Twisted consists of many episodes. See No Evil is episode 3. A new episode will be released every eighteen days!
Free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Things are heating up! This episode has the girls all over the place, but still not really coming together as a team.

The Good:

The characters are still uniquely individuals and the story keeps rolling along. I start reading and I don't tend to stop until I reach the cliff hanger that is sure to come at the end of each one of these episodes.

The Bad:

Without knowing just how long this title is going to be once all of the episodes are going to be released, I'm a bit concerned with the pacing. Since I don't know though, everything could be just fine!

The Summary:

Still a fun read if you're into the paranormal at a young adult level. Be aware though that this is a serial so there's no telling just how many episodes and just how long it's going to take before you get the entire story. At the writing of this post, only one has been released and another four are available for pre-order. I hope that gives you some idea of what you're in for!





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Meat Lover's Chili

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If I had to say what my favorite fall dish would be, I think I would say chili every single time. My usual recipe is pretty simple, but sometimes you just want something a bit more...wow...and this recipe certainly covers that!

Meat Lover's Chili:

Ingredients:
2 pounds beef stew meat (frozen is fine)
10 ounces smoked andouille sausages, sliced
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (whole can)
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (or about 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups beef broth

Directions:

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Place everything into your crockpot: meat, sausages, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and all the seasonings. Stir in the broth. Cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. For chili, the longer the better.

Serve with your favorite toppings. We love saltines or oyster crackers, shredded cheese and/or sour cream! No matter how you serve it, it's yummy!






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Friday, October 5, 2018

Book Review: When Through Deep Waters

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Alicen McCaffrey finally has the life her mother always dreamed for her: beautiful home in Santa Monica, successful husband, adorable daughter. Then tragedy blows her carefully assembled facade to pieces. Worse yet--Alicen feels solely responsible. At rock bottom, she decides to accompany a childhood friend back to Red Lodge, Montana, where they spent summers together as kids.

The peaceful mountain landscape, accented with lush forests and small-town charm, brings back happy memories of time spent with her beloved, eccentric Grandma Josephine. Alicen begins to hope that perhaps things could be different here. Perhaps the oppressive guilt will lift--if only for a moment.

But when Alicen starts hearing voices and seeing mysterious figures near the river in the woods, she begins to fear she's completely lost her sanity, as it's rumored her grandmother did. Or might there be more to Red Lodge than meets the eye? Could the voices and visions be real--and her only means of finding the healing she so desperately needs? Or will they prove to be her final undoing?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sometimes you pick up a book and you have no idea if it's going to be a good fit for you or not. That's part of the reason why I write up book reviews. I want to help others find books that they're going to love.

The Good:

Ms. Dekker writes amazing lead characters. She does such a wonderful job of sharing Alicen's grief and the dive into depression. I could relate to Alicen and the struggles that she had after watching her "perfect" life fall to pieces. I felt as if I were walking right alongside her as she struggled. This was made easier by the wonderful job that the author does at setting the scene. I could see the woods, the small bookstore, the house, and all of the places that Alicen finds herself. 

The Bad:

This book is completely labeled as the wrong genre. It isn't really a mystery or a thriller. I would have tucked it more under paranormal fiction, if anything. Also, while it didn't bother me, some may be bothered by the theme of self-forgiveness due to their beliefs that only God can truly forgive. Like I said, this wasn't an issue for me but I wanted to give y'all a heads up in case that sort of thing may be an issue for you.

The Summary:

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The fact that it was listed as a thriller worried me but as I said above, it really isn't a thriller. It's really a book about finding yourself again after the world has taken your light away. For me, I am very glad that I took a chance and picked up this book. I hope you will too.





I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, October 1, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Maple BBQ Beef

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Happy October! I can't believe how fast this year is going by already! I just had my birthday a week ago and suddenly it's October and Halloween is just around the corner! My baby is already over a month into his senior year of high school and I'm bugging him constantly about college applications...thank goodness for my crockpot!

This week, it's all about one of my favorite fall flavors...Maple!

Maple BBQ Beef:

Ingredients:
2 pounds frozen solid stew meat
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes (or 1 large onion, peeled and diced.)
2/3 cup beef broth

Directions:

Dump everything into your crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for about 5 or 6 hours. If you can, stir once about halfway through cooking. If you can’t, it’s not an issue. Just stir well before serving.

Your meat is finished when it can break apart with a spoon. Serve with mashed potatoes and/or roasted vegetables.


Question: What's your favorite fall flavor? Comment below and let me know!




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Friday, September 28, 2018

Book Review: Beware the Signs

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Beware the Signs - Jo Ho
Her worst nightmare has come true and it's still only her first day of college.

A new urban fantasy series from the award-winning screenwriter of ground-breaking BBC TV series Spirit Warriors.

With death on her hands, Marley is haunted by her actions and terrified by her new powers. Christian won't let her forget what she has done but worst than that, there's the terrifying ghost who keeps coming after her, right when she is at her most vulnerable. What does she want with her?

After almost causing another terrible accident, Tyler knows they must learn to control their new powers - whatever they are - or risk killing again, but a self-taught lesson doesn't go as planned, leaving the girls more fragmented than when they began.

Cassie's weird hang-ups make it hard for the others to connect with her, while uninterested in being part of the team, Eve leaves them to fend for themselves.

When one of them is attacked by something less than human, it suddenly becomes clear just how dangerous their world has become.

Will Marley and the girls be able to set aside their differences and work together before tragedy strikes again?

Saving the world has never been this Twisted.

Fans of The Mortal Instruments, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars will love this new series.

~~~~~~~~~~~
The one bonus with this serial is that when I picked it to review, the next two sections were also available. So let's dive into the second part!

The Good:

Another quick moving section and as a reader, I could start to see the story itself starting to come together. The girls are still very much individuals and dealing with their own insecurities and issues while trying to figure out what's going on. It can be hard not to have characters blend into one another so I appreciate their differences.

The Bad:

I find Christian to be a bit on the overwhelming side. I understand his emotional intensity but he's a bit much for me. I think it revolves around the way that he has to communicate. 

The Summary:

I found this to be another quick read and I'm already eager to start the third part. I sincerely hope that the author continues to put her books out for review because I would like to see where this goes. My only fear is that because it's being written in an episodic format that it might continue on far past where it should end. The only way to find out though is to keep reading!






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Crockpot Monday:Turkey Tetrazzini

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Crockpot Monday - Turkey Tetrazzini
Yesterday was my birthday and while I'm officially older, I also officially still love food! This recipe is a bit fancier than usual but so good that I couldn't leave it out!

Turkey Tetrazzini:

Ingredients:
1 (16-ounce package) dry spaghetti, cooked
1-2 pounds turkey breast tenders, cut in small chunks
5 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, chunked
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. 

Layer all ingredients, except for pasta into the bottom of your crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours. Add cooked pasta and then cover and cook for an additional hour.

....and now I'm hungry! Time to get something yummy cooking!




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Friday, September 21, 2018

Book Review: What Doesn't Kill You

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What Doesn't Kill You - Jo Ho
OUTCASTS. MISFITS. FREAKS.
And that was before they discovered they commanded some super dark powers.

A new urban fantasy series by the award-winning screenwriter and creator of ground-breaking BBC TV series Spirit Warriors.

When Marley moves into her dorm at Blackville University, the recent murder of a Tennerson student is the last thing on her mind. She has roommates to get to know, classes to sign up for, parties to attend, and an over-protective father to avoid, who, as luck would have it, has just been hired at BU as its newest History professor.

After a childhood of being bullied due to a condition she can’t help having, all Marley wants is to be normal. She hopes a new start in a new city will provide that.

Unfortunately, life has other plans for her.

When she, along with three other troubled girls: Goth Eve with a dark secret she is desperate to keep hidden, wealthy Cassie who can buy anything except for a new face, and newly orphaned Tyler, try to stop a brutal attack, a secret new world opens up, one where supernatural beings rule the night.

But that’s not the worst thing, not by a long shot. Try never knowing if what you’re seeing is real, especially when one of those things is a murder…

Saving the world has never been this Twisted!

Fans of The Mortal Instruments, The Vampire Diaries, and Pretty Little Liars will love this new series.

What Doesn’t Kill You is episode one of the Twisted series. A new episode will be released every eighteen days! Free on Kindle Unlimited.
~~~~~~~~~
They say you should never judge a book by it's cover, but it was the cover that drew me in. It's so striking! Now, on with the review!

The Good:

This is one fast paced book! It was written with the idea of it being a tv series and that's just how it reads. I could easily imagine it being a 30 minute episode that I curled up on the couch to watch each week or even better, binge on Netflix. Each of the characters is a complex and unique individual and yet somehow come together to make the story work.

The Bad:

It's really tough to find something wrong with this book. I'm not sure how much I enjoy the serial style, but that's not the fault of this book. There were moments that felt slightly done before but then there would be a twist and I'd go nope, never mind.

The Summary:

If you're a lover of serials, the paranormal, and teen girls trying to possibly save the world, this would be a great series for you to check out, especially if you have Kindle Unlimited.






I received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are my own.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Crockpot Monday: Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry BBQ Sauce

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Crockpot Monday - Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry BBQ Sauce
I love meatballs. I love bbq. I love cranberry. Do you see where this is going? Yep! Turkey meatballs with cranberry bbq sauce! Mmm....Is dinner ready yet?

Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry BBQ Sauce:

Ingredients:
1 pound turkey meatballs (already cooked)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 can (16oz) jellied cranberry sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Directions:
Cut cranberry sauce into slices and place into the bottom of your crockpot. Add barbecue sauce and soy sauce. Top with cooked meatballs.

Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-4.

You can't really get much easier than that! Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes and enjoy!




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