November 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting my website.  It’s mind boggling that we are now in the month of November.  They say our universe is expanding as in THE universe, and galaxies are moving faster.  Well I can’t move any faster even if you lit a fire under me!  Ha.  All jokes aside, time does seem to have accelerated.  Perhaps we will be moving faster into a nicer, kinder, gentler world.  Yeah, I can hope!  And that’s what prayers are for.

Thanksgiving plans also seem to be moving at breakneck speed, and before you know it Christmas will be at our door.  It’s exhausting thinking about it, so I won’t—for now.  Although where I live, if you don’t have your holiday decorations up the day after Halloween, they’ll send the ornament police after you!

Back to Thanksgiving.  It used to be a time when families would gather and show their gratitude for their blessings.  Today it’s football, faces stuck to cell phones, video games, and getting ready for Black Friday.  Again, exhausting.  Let’s not forget the stress of inviting annoying relatives.  The upside of having a big family dinner is that you can avoid the pesky ones.  But if you have a small family and you drink, start early.  If you don’t drink, reconsider your invitation list.  Or, pretend you’re going away for the weekend.  Pull the curtains shut and keep most of the lights off.  Maybe leave a newspaper in front of your door to look authentic.

Now let’s talk about Black Friday.  I understand there are lots of bargains, but it seems as if there are sales every other weekend.  Truth be told, you couldn’t get me near a store even if they were giving away a free giant television.  (I’d send my grandson.  He’s young.  He can manage.)  Seriously, I am really grateful for internet browsing, and of course all the shopping networks.  Click here, click there.  Done.

Looking ahead, my advice is give yourself a break.  Boundaries, my friends.    I’ve adopted a new saying: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”  There’s already enough stress to go around the world a few times.  You really don’t have to do anything but be kind.  A simple smile at the person working at the cash register can go a long way.  Appreciation for each other can change someone’s day.

On to all things books.  As many of you know Falling Stars is out now in hardcover.  Santa Cruise a fun, holiday story of four friends and their escapades on a singles cruise is now available in paperback.  Secrets, Book Two of the Lost and Found Series is on the New York Times Best-Seller List!  Woo-hoo!  If you haven’t read the first book, Hidden, don’t despair, there’s plenty of back story, although Hidden sets up the series and the quirky, artsy characters.  Tick Tock, Book 34 in The Sisterhood is coming in December.  Those women are still at it, getting justice when the system fails.  I wish they were real.  That’s why I started the series in the first place!

So, following the topic of all things books, this month’s contest will feature a copy of each book that I just mentioned including the soon to be released Tick Tock!

That’s all I have for now.  Remember, be good to each other and good to yourself.

Stay well, stay healthy and stay strong!

All the best,
Fern

November 2022 Recipes

Now on to another favorite topic, food.  For those of you who are baking—and from what I hear it’s a lot of you—here is that fantastic apple pie recipe courtesy of Patricia Dorph—in case you missed it last year.

 Apple Pie

Pastry for two 9-inch pastry pans:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cups butter
  • 2-3 Tbs. cold water
  • Sift flour and salt together
  • Add butter and cut it through with pastry blender until mixture is in pieces, pea size
  • Add cold water a few drops at time until moistened enough to hold together in a ball
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in frig. for 15-30 mins
  • Take more than half for the under crust and roll out and fit into 9” pie pan

Filling:

  • 5 cups, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced apples. Granny Green and Mackintosh
  • Mix together and add to apples
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • Place into pie pan
  • Roll out top dough for crust and place on top
  • Make 4 slashes in top crust

Bake 450 degrees for 15 mins.  Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 35 mins.  Remove when golden brown.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  Enjoy.

If you’re craving the traditional pumpkin pie, this is courtesy of Heidi Dugan.

Pumpkin Pie

Pastry for two 9-inch pastry pans:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cups butter
  • 2-3 Tbs. cold water
  • Sift flour and salt together
  • Add butter and cut it through with pastry blender until mixture is in pieces, pea size
  • Add cold water a few drops at time until moistened enough to hold together in a ball
  • Wrap in plastic and chill in frig. for 15-30 mins.
  • Take more than half for the under crust and roll out and fit into 9” pie pan

Filling:

  • 2 Large eggs, beaten
  • ¾ Cup brown sugar (may also use white sugar)
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ Teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ Teaspoon clove
  • 15 Oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 12oz can evaporated milk
  • In a medium bowl combine ingredients in order listed above
  • Pour the mixture into unbaked piecrust. Bake in pre heat oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes
  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean
  • Cool 2 hrs. and serve or refrigerate

Both are absolutely delicious and I want to thank Heidi and Patty for sharing their family recipes with us.  If you’d like to share one of yours, please go to my Facebook page.

October 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting my website.  I want to start by saying my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Ian.  We got hammered in South Carolina.  I spent 2 hours sitting in the shower due to 80mph sustained winds.  The storms are getting fiercer, and there is nothing we can do about them except be prepared as best we can.  Makes me want to build a bunker, but it would probably get flooded!  I always worry about a power outage because you don’t know how long it will last.  I have a generator,  but that won’t keep the wind from blowing off the roof.  Yep.  Scary stuff.

The kitty squad is up to their usual tricks like turning on the TV in the middle of the night.  I have to remember to hide the remote, except I forget where I put it.  Need to leave a post-it, but I’m sure Mz. Boo will figure out a way to hide that too!   And then there’s her ability to turn on the faucet.  I swear they have a meeting as soon as I go to bed to decide what havoc they’re going to wreak.  But I have to admit they always make me laugh.  I suppose I’m an enabler.

There’s lots of book news to spread holiday cheer:

FALLING STARS – Hardcover On Sale Now

SPIRIT OF THE SEASON – On Sale Now with new packaging

SANTA CRUISE – Paperback on Sale Oct 25.  I must be psychic because I wrote this 2 years ago and there is a new “REAL” LOVE BOAT show airing this month, too!

People are starting their holiday shopping now because stores have too much inventory from the supply chain backlog.  So be careful out there.  The craziness is about to begin!  It seems like we’ve been living in the spin cycle of the washing machine for a couple of years.  Please try to be patient and kind as you traverse the holiday mania.

This month’s contest is a collection of books including FALLING STARS.

Be well, be safe, be kind, and try to have some fun.   Trick or Treat!

All the best, Fern

October 2022 Recipes

Let’s no forget Halloween!  Below is a fun treat that I just l-o-v-e, love!

Peanut Butter Treats

1 small jar Jiff peanut butter, 1 can of Duncan Heinz cake frosting (vanilla or chocolate)

Microwave peanut butter 90 seconds.  Microwave frosting 60 seconds.  Mix and pour in baking pan lightly greased and refrigerate until solid.  Cut and EAT when set.  OMG, I ate half the pan.

And with the cold weather approaching, here is one of my favorite one-pot recipes

Short Ribs – Crock Pot Recipe – You can make two different dinners from this

  • 2 lbs. short ribs
  • 1 lb. mushrooms – washed and sliced
  • 1 large leek (or onion) sliced thin
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups dry red wine (don’t worry the alcohol will evaporate)
  • 8 oz. broth (bone is the best but you can use chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp. ground savory
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh ground pepper – to your taste

Brown the short ribs in the olive oil.  Don’t overcook. Remove and set aside.
Brown the leeks and garlic in the same pan.
Pour the wine and broth into the crock pot and add savory, oregano, thyme, salt & pepper.  Stir together.
Add ribs and top with the mushrooms.
Cook 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

The meat will literally fall off the bone, that you can discard.
First meal is the beef.  Serve with mashed potatoes.

Second meal (which is the best part for me)

Pappardelle pasta.  Those are the long flat ones that are about a ¼ inch thick.  They usually come in spirals. Depending on how many people you are feeding you can decide how much pasta to make.  Cook pasta according to your liking.
Heat leftover mushroom sauce and serve over pasta.
Garnish with fresh basil, grated parmesan, or pecorino cheese.
If you’re like me and you want to give it a kick, sprinkle crushed red pepper.

Buon appetito!

September 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Hello again and thanks for visiting.  Even though it’s early September we still have some hot weather ahead, especially if you’re in the South.  The summer was so hot I didn’t even bother to attempt a vegetable garden.  According to some friends of mine who live in the Garden State of New Jersey, the only thing that made it through the heat was the corn.  Nothing like a good, buttery corn on the cob.  I don’t know about you, but when the temperature is about to burst the thermometer, I don’t feel too much like cooking so I will share some easy recipes besides digging into a carton of ice cream!

Kids are going back to school, and I am sure there are mothers and fathers out there doing cartwheels!  The past two years have been a big challenge for most families, between figuring out how to work from home, and school your kids.  Talk about a juggling act.  Maybe this will be the beginning of things getting back to normal once and for all.

The cats are still running my life and I am very happy about it, and so is Harvey.  He thinks they belong to him.  If you don’t have a pet you don’t know what you’re missing.  I’m serious.  There have been dozens of studies from accredited health organizations stating that interacting with an animal has shown to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress related hormone.  That helps to lower your blood pressure.  They also found animals help lower anxiety levels.  Of course, they provide companionship and help to structure your day.  You ain’t kidding.  My fur family bosses me around all day long.

On to book news.  Secrets, book two in the Lost and Found Series just hit the shelves and is already a USA TODAY Best Seller.  So thank you to all my fans who bought it and read it.  I was very pleased to see how many people are enjoying the escapades of the characters.  The third novel Liar! will be out next year.

This month’s contest is for an assortment of six of some of my favorites including Hidden (book  one in the Lost and Found series), and Secrets.

Stay well, healthy, and strong!

All the best,
Fern Michaels

September 2022 Recipes

Grilled cheese sandwiches.  Here are a couple of my favorites.  BTW, did you know you can substitute mayonnaise (the real stuff) instead of butter?  I recently discovered that many diners use it in place of butter.

Grilled Swiss Cheese, Bacon & Tomato – I like it on Rye Bread
Make sure the bacon is cooked first.
*Slather up two slices of bread with either butter or mayo.  Place slathered side down on medium heat in frying pan.
Place 2-3 slices of swiss cheese on each slice of bread.  When cheese starts to melt, top with bacon and a slice of tomato.  Let melt for another minute.  Carefully flip one of the slices over and place on top of the other – cheese meets cheese.   Yummy.

If you want a little tang:
Sourdough bread
Provolone
Cheddar
*Same routine as above substituting cheeses

Even more tang:
Your choice of bread
Monterey Jack
Jalapeno peppers – as much heat as you can stand
*Same routine as above substituting cheese and adding peppers

For something fresh and easy try a Caprisi salad or sandwich.
Get fresh mozzarella, I mean fresh, not the stuff hermetically sealed.  If you can.
Fresh beefsteak tomato – there should still be a few around.
Fresh Basil.
Make ¼ inch slices of the cheese and tomatoes.
Lay them out like a fan alternating cheese, tomato, basil leaves.
You can make a sandwich out of this, or serve it with bread on the side.
Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar.  It looks refreshing and tastes delicious.
Note:  never refrigerate fresh mozzarella.  It makes it hard.  You can keep it in a cool place for up to a week. Cheese never lasts that long in my house.

August 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well. Here we are in the “Dog Days” of summer thinking about pooches panting in the heat and searching for some shade. But the true origin of the term comes from astronomy. If you look closely at the night sky, you may notice one star is brighter than the rest. That’s Sirius, The Dog Star, part of the constellation Canis Major, meaning “Big Dog.” This year it will be visible until August 11th. You should be able to see it without a telescope but if you have one enjoy the magnificent sparkling display.

Yes, the cats are on a hooligan rampage again. I think they’ve broken everything possible in the house.  I shrug. It’s just stuff. So, here’s a tip: if you ever adopt young cats lock everything up that has any value, although I think Miz Boo can pick locks. I think she’s been watching Tick Tock videos with Tessie. Speaking of Tessie (Miz Boo’s Mommy), she is quite talented. She can turn the TV on, and if it’s a show she likes she’ll leave it, but if not, she’ll turn it off. She still hasn’t mastered changing the channel. Yet. She also knows how to turn on the water but hasn’t been able to figure out how to turn it off. It’s a learning curve. I’ve also discovered her favorite beverage is ginger ale. And she must drink it from a straw. We’re trying to figure out how to do a blind taste-test. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

My pillows are no longer my own. Harvey sleeps on one, and Boo sleeps on the other. She is sweet as honey with 3 legs, a club foot, one orange eye and one yellow eye. She’s quite a site but she’s my little baby. I know I mentioned Winnie has taken residence on the dining room table, and that’s fine with me. It seats 12 so there’s still plenty of room for company. If people don’t want a cat at the table they can go somewhere else to eat. My house. My rules. 😊

August is hot and sticky down here. Every year it gets hotter and stickier. I love to sit on my rocking chairs on my front porch but last month it was impossible. I needed a spatula to get up. After 5 minutes of that I decided to hunker down in the air conditioning and watch my fur-family destroy whatever is in their path. Gotta love ‘em.

Big book news:  No Way Out is on The New York Times Best Seller List; Secrets (Book 2 in the Lost and Found Series starring Luna and Cullen Bodman) will be on sale the end of this month; The Guest List and The Marriage Game are being reissued in August and September with spectacular new covers! I’ll save the fall announcements for next month!

It is hard to imagine school will be starting in some states at the end of this month, so the weekends are precious and there is nothing better than a good family dinner, especially a traditional Southern dinner. I wrote about this last year, but it’s worth repeating. Many people turn up their noses to collard greens—I for one, am one of those people—but this is made with bacon. Everything is better with bacon. (I wonder why no one has invented bacon flavored toothpaste…oh well) As I mentioned before, this recipe comes from Ashley Fenimore, a beautiful young pharmacological oncologist who won the Charleston Magazine contest for side vegetables. Her collard greens was the winning recipe!  Ashley is one of those people who work tirelessly in search of the cure for cancer. After a long week in the lab, she relaxes by cooking with her family. Another friend Carolyn Williams gave us her family recipe for fried chicken. And of course, every Southern meal must have potato salad.

Contest stuff:  Everyone seems to be enjoying the contests for a bundle of my personal favorites so we’re going to do that again!

Enjoy the rest of the summer. Stay cool, stay well, stay safe, and most of all stay sane!

Warm regards,
Fern

August 2022 Recipes

TUSCAN STYLE COLLARD GREENS (A LITTLE BIT OF ITALY)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large bunches local collards
  • 16 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 large leeks, washed, white part diced (slice 2-3 rings for garnish)
  • 1/3 lb. pancetta or bacon chopped

DIRECTIONS

  • Cut or tear collard leaves off stems.
  • Clean by rinsing repeatedly in cold water.  Remove excess water – use a salad spinner if you have one.
  • Cut into two-inch strips.
  • Place in a large pot, cover generously with vegetable broth (reserve 1/3 cup broth for later), and bring to a low boil.
  • Cook until collards are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  • Sauté garlic for two minutes, or until tender. Using slotted spoon, remove garlic to a bowl.
  • Add diced leeks to pan, and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes—do not brown.
  • Remove leeks to garlic bowl. Add pancetta/bacon to frying pan, and sauté until browned.
  • Return garlic and leeks to pan.
  • Add reserved vegetable broth and collards.
  • Stir gently and thoroughly until collards are completely cooked, about three minutes. Serve.

SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

  • Cut up whole chicken
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cup corn meal
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 3-4 cups Wesson or high heat oil – enough to cover frying pan by at least 1 inch

DIRECTIONS

  • Wash Chicken – soak in slightly salted water for 10 minutes
  • Blend dry ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes
  • Heat oil until a drop of water sizzles
  • Dip chicken in buttermilk
  • Dredge chicken through dry ingredients and place in hot oil
  • Keep an eye on the chicken—when it is brown on one side turn over and cook other side

EASY POTATO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs. New Potatoes or red potatoes cubed and cooked – let cool a bit
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup ranch dressing [with or without bacon] or add your own
  • ¼ cup bacon bits or crumbled bacon

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix and serve or refrigerate for 2 hours and serve

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE – ANOTHER CONTEST WINNER!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.
  • Chop chocolate into small pieces.
  • In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.
  • Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture.
  • Add eggs and whisk well.
  • Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
  • Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust.
  • Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.
  • Dust cake with additional cocoa powder. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

July 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

Oh my goodness it’s July already!   I hope you had an enjoyable holiday weekend.  Personally I spent a lot of it hiding in a large closet with the fur babies.  We had torrential rain, and clouds so black it looked like a tornado was about to hit.  Surely we are not in Kansas anymore.  The weather here in South Carolina has been all but consistent.  The only constant is change.  Kinda like life, I suppose.  But seriously, people may not want to acknowledge climate change, but guess what kids?  Climate changes every single day.  We just happen to be experiencing wide swings of it in a very short time.  Call it whatever you want but even the weather people can’t seem to get a handle on it either.  (I want that job.  Get paid lots of money and you can be wrong every single day.  Not bad.  LOL.)

The world surely seems in need of some kind of realignment.  A re-set button so to speak.  Every day there is more to fret about.  I know I’ve said I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer and I won’t.  I’m simply saying while there is a lot to fret about, we need to be strong.  We need to be Bad-Ass.  One of my favorite expressions is “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.”  We have to pick our battles and boy oh boy do we seem to have many.  So pick the ones that mean the most to you.  Narrow it down.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the overshadowing cloud of doom.  Imagine if all of us could take a deep breath at the same time and then blow away all the evil?  Now that is what I call a fantasy.  My point is, try to stay positive.  Try to stay kind even if you want to choke the living heck out of the idiot at the head of the line at the post office who never bought a money order before.  Sorry.  Was that mean?  Thought balloons.  Like in the cartoons.  Sometimes I laugh out loud at what’s going through my head and then everyone around me takes a few steps back.  Gives me a little more elbow room.  Ha! Ha!

I am happy to report the latest paperback release NO WAY OUT is # 9 on the NEW YORK TIMES Best Seller List, and I thank all of you for your support.  I cannot tell you how much it means to me that after all the years I’ve been writing, I can still reach people’s hearts, minds, and souls.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Speaking of paperback releases and being a shameless self-promoter (if you know me personally you know that’s a big fat lie.  I have people pushing me all the time 😊),  the second installment of the Lost and Found series SECRETS, starring Luna Bodman and her brother Cullen will be out in six weeks.  So we are going to make that part of this months’ contest.  A bundle of my favorites including HIDDEN the first book in the series, just in case you haven’t started it yet.  I am truly enjoying writing it.  It’s set in the atmosphere of an art center and the eccentric people who inhabit it.  There’s mystery, romance, friendships, twists, and turns.

For the dog days of August I suggest lots of watermelon, sweet tea, ice cream, hot dogs, and corn on the cob, and not necessarily in that order!  Eat what you want, and when you want!

Sincerely,
Fern

July 2022 Recipes

Here are a couple of my favorite summer specials – a no-bake dessert, a summer staple, and a refreshing beverage.   I know I included this in my last letter, but it’s still summer so it’s still relevant:

Watermelon for Grownups*

  • One round “sugar” watermelon
  • 2 cups vodka
  • Cut a 4-5 inch hole in the top
  • Using a paring knife chop the inside of the watermelon to make it chunky
  • Add 2 cups vodka
  • Fresh mint – pick just before serving
  • put the watermelon in a bowl or a pan so it doesn’t leak all over, chill overnight in refrigerator

Scoop out the watermelon chunks and add  1 cup to a blender.
Mix on high adding more watermelon as it emulsifies.
Once it’s frothy, pour into an appropriate glass and garnish with fresh mint.

*If you want to be prepared for future gatherings, chop up a sugar watermelon and put it in a blender with fresh mint.  Turn it into a smoothie and freeze it.  When you’re ready, you can put it back in the blender and add your favorite vodka – or not.  It’s a great summer smoothie with or without.

German Potato Salad

  • 5 slices bacon (diced and cooked until crisp)
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups sliced cooked potatoes – look for thin skinned like red or fingerling
  1. Boil already-sliced potatoes until they are cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon and keep the drippings. Set it aside to cool.
  3. Heat bacon drippings in a pan large enough to add the potatoes.
  4. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, and mustard.
  5. Slowly add vinegar and water. Stir until smooth.
  6. Continue cooking over low heat until thickened.
  7. Add potatoes and heat through. Slowly add crumbled bacon-save a few tablespoons for garnish.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature.

No Bake Cheesecake

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 4 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • ½ pint sliced fresh strawberries – sprinkled with sugar – set aside
  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  2. Fold in whipped topping.
  3. Spoon mixture into graham crumb crust. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  4. Once the cheesecake has set, garnish with sliced strawberries.
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