April 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

Hooray for Spring!  The rebirth from the darkness.  Well, it sure has been a long, dark year.  Looking at the flowers starting to bloom gives me hope we will be moving in a brighter and better direction.  We have to think that way otherwise we would be depressed, and I know so many people are feeling down and exhausted.  COVID overload.   It’s been hard, challenging, and a whole lot of anxiety.  When will this ever end?  At least we don’t have to worry about standing in lines hoping to get our one roll of toilet paper.  See?  Things are looking up already!

I know the holidays are once again predicated on COVID, which can be a good excuse to avoid the in-laws!  Kidding.  But…if it suits you, enjoy it while you can.  See?  Another upside to the pandemic!   But seriously, it will be wonderful to get back to some semblance of normal like hugging your friends and family and be able to enjoy people in person.  Enough Zooming, please.

We’re still waiting on some family members to get their vaccine.  I know it’s been frustrating getting appointments but remember, we have never been through anything like this in our lifetimes.  It wasn’t planned and everyone was reacting to the latest news and updates. Yep.  It’s been a drama alright, more for some than others and I feel for anyone who lost a loved one.   I’ve been there and I know.    But we have come a long way and must press forward.  Appreciate what we have and look forward to a brighter tomorrow and the days ahead. Count our blessings no matter how small.

My newest book No Way Out is available now and has been getting very nice reviews. As an FYI, it’s more of a “cozy” than a thriller.  No blood or guts.  It’s a mystery wrapped in a puzzle in a small town.   I want to thank the fans who take the time to read my books and also write about them.

I wish everyone a blessed holiday no matter what you practice as long as you practice kindness in the mix.  Be well.  Be safe.  Be kind.  Keep your sense of humor.  keep reading, and cooking!

This month’s contest will be for a signed first edition of No Way Out.  My publisher just told me they have to go back to press!  Exciting!

All the best,

Fern

April 2021 Recipes

Stuffed Shells
1 lb. of large macaroni shells
2 cups Ricotta cheese – please don’t’ ruin it with cottage cheese!
1 cup parmesian or romano – grated
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley – the dried stuff doesn’t do it
½ cup chopped fresh basil – this you can substitute for 2 tsps. Dried basil
2 eggs

Marinara sauce: If you want to save time and have EXCELLENT sauce get a couple of jars of RAO’s. Most grocery stores carry that brand now. It comes from a family recipe at Rao’s Italian Restaurant in the Bronx. The restaurant has only 10 tables and is considered THE hardest place to get a reservation. For real. It’s not even knowing someone. It’s knowing someone who owns a slot who would be willing to give it up for you!

Cook the pasta al dente according to the package. You don’t want them to get too mushy because you will be stuffing them and then baking them.
Drain and let them cool down a bit so you can handle them.

While the pasta is cooking – 10-12 minutes prepare the mixture

Beat the eggs and mix ricotta and parmesan cheeses and herbs and blend. (The mozzarella goes on later.)
Fill each cooked shell with egg/cheese mix.

Preheat oven to 325.

Put a small layer of sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.
Lay stuffed shells on top of the sauce. Its ok to overlap them if necessary
Top the shells with more sauce, sprinkle with shredded mozzarella
Bake for 20 minutes.

They’ll think you have an Italian chef in your kitchen!

Short Ribs Slow Cooker
This is SO easy!
2 lbs. short ribs
3 large peeled carrots cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic – sliced
1 onion sliced (can use leeks if you want)
1 8oz. package of mushrooms (optional)
2 tsps. Thyme
1 8oz. can of beef broth
2 cups red wine or alcohol free wine

Salt the ribs on both sides and brown in a little olive oil– 2 minutes on each side
Remove from pan and set aside.
Saute the onion and garlic in same pan used for browning the short ribs until wilted.

In crock pot add broth, thyme, wine, carrots, mushrooms if desired, then add the wilted onions and garlic and short ribs to the crock pot.
Set on low for 8 hours.
The meat will fall off the bone!

March 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

Hard to believe it’s March. Even though last month we had Ground Hog day, well here we are again.  It dawned on me that all the ground hog really has to do is look at the calendar:  6 more weeks of winter.  I guess the critter needs the job.  The upside is spring is only a few weeks away.

It seems like everyone, no matter where you live, has been hit with volatile weather. That and the pandemic is what I call a one-two punch.  I hope you and your families are “weathering” all the storms and are safe and well.

I got my COVID vaccine—both shots and I am very happy to report I had no side effects from either. My sister and her husband got their hinnies kicked after the second. Funny how everyone has a different reaction.  If you haven’t gotten yours yet, hang in there.  I know there has been a huge effort in getting them out all over the country and the weather hasn’t helped but keep the faith.  Maybe one of these days we’ll be able to see each other’s mouths moving—although sometimes not seeing it is a good thing.

Next month we have Easter.  Did you ever wonder why it’s never the same from one year to the next?  Here’s why—now pay attention:  It is the FIRST Sunday after the FIRST Full Moon AFTER the Equinox (equal hours of daylight and dark).  Follow me with the math.  The Equinox is March 20th.  The first full moon is March 28.  The first Sunday after that is April 4th.  Voila!  Passover is also on its own calendar and this year it’s the weekend of Palm Sunday.  God sure works in mysterious ways.

My fur-family is doing well, as is my human family.  We’re all getting a little stir crazy but with warmer weather coming we’ll be able to go outside again.

My latest book news is Bitter Pill (The Sisterhood) has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for three weeks.  I remember when I wrote the first novel and my publisher in New York almost had a heart attack because it was the polar opposite of the rest of my work.   He was so concerned that my fans would hate it he didn’t want to publish it.  But then a very smart man in the UK bought it and put it out in hardcover.  He sold 7,000 copies in the blink of an eye, and that was a real eyeopener for my New York publisher who now has 32 more New York Times Best Sellers!  So my most heartfelt thanks to my fans who stuck with the series, and the new fans who have jumped onboard.  I still write my traditional novels, but it’s good for the brain to mix it up a bit.  Keeps me on my toes.  This fall we are going to be introducing another new series but more on that down the road.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Be well.  Be safe.  Be kind.  Keep your sense of humor.  keep reading, and cooking!

We had such a great response to last months’ contest that we will be repeating it for March.  a signed edition of my next hardcover No Way Out coming in April and part of the Mother’s Day promotion at Target.

All the best,

Fern

March 2021 Recipes

If you like avocados, here is a quick and easy recipe for those on the run…or running around chasing kids:
Avocado Spread
(1) Ripe avocado
(2) Tablespoons of Tzatziki Sauce (It’s made with yogurt, cucumber, dill, garlic, low fat and low calories. ) You can buy it in the grocery store where they have Humus and spreads – Boars’ Head and Cedars make it.
Scoop out the avocado and mash it with the Tzatziki sauce. Eat it out of a bowl or spread it on toast.

Now for Desert:
This is so easy….and impressive when served in a wine glass – balloon size is best.

(1) Premade Devil’s food cake (or make it yourself if you have time)
(2) Pints of vanilla ice cream – let soften
(1) Can of whipped cream
(2) Tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts
Maraschino cherries

Let the ice cream soften as you cut up the cake into bite size pieces.
Layer 2-3 pieces of cake at bottom of glass.
Add a spoonful of ice cream on top
Add 2-3 more pieces of cake
Top with whipped creams, nuts and cherries

OR…you can do it in reverse with Vanilla Lady Fingers and Chocolate ice cream.

February 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.  It’s hard to imagine that we are almost a year into this pandemic.  I know people are climbing the walls.  I am grateful I have a large enough house that if I had to spend time with other people I could easily hide.  I count my blessings each and every day.  I saw a very funny cartoon with a woman saying, “We’ve child-proofed the house.  But they keep getting in!”   Humor, folks.  We’ve got to cling to it.  Imagine, Spring is only 6 ½ weeks away.  With some luck we’ll be on the other side of this crazy time in history and on to a new season of good health and hope.

Lots of things happening this month.  We have Ground Hog Day.  Funny thing, it seems like every day has been Ground Hog Day for the past 10 months! See, humor.  I’m squeezing as much of it out of me as I can.  Here’s an idea:  Send me your favorite jokes!  If they make me laugh I’ll share them.

Keep thinking happy thoughts.

My personal animal farm is doing well.  Still can’t believe I’m a cat owner.  Not one, but three.  The first one who came along is Winny.  The skinny cat kept showing up on my porch.  I felt sorry for the poor thing so I put out some food.  Hello?  Did anyone ever tell you that if you put food out, they will come?  Just like the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.”  Same thing goes for animals. Build them outdoor dining and you have a pet.  Here’s the funny thing about Winny.  When I finally got the critter into the house and went to the vet, much to my surprise Winny was really a Winston.  Yep.  She was really a he. Like I said, I’ve never been a cat person.  Who knew?  Now we have Miz Boo and her mama, Tessie too.

Besides Ground Hog Day we also have Valentine’s Day.  I have mixed feelings. As a writer of romance novels I am sometimes ambivalent about it.  I know that sounds contrary but the reason I write those types of novels is because it’s the kind of romantic experience we wish we can have.  And who says we can’t?  If no one buys you candy this year buy some for yourself.  Or buy yourself a new purse.  Something to treat yourself.  We shouldn’t have to wait for other people to do something nice for us. I am sure most of you have had your hands full this past year.  A little retail therapy works wonders.  Even if it’s just a new lipstick.

This month’s contest is a signed edition of my next hardcover No Way Out coming in April.  I’m thrilled to announce that it’s going to be in promotion at Target for Mother’s Day.   That’s all I’ve got for now.  Be well.  Be safe.  Be kind.

All the best,

Fern

February 2021 Recipes

FRITATTA
This is great for a Sunday brunch or a quick dinner.
Need ovenproof frying pan.
Ingredients
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion
1 can potatoes or 1 cup [blanched] sliced fresh potatoes
1 package of frozen artichoke hearts –[thawed] You can use asparagus if you prefer
½ cup sun dried tomatoes – sliced
3-4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves shredded/chopped
¼ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
4-containers of Eggbeaters [or 6-8 eggs scrambled]
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese [according to taste preference] to melt on top just before done

Instructions
Pre-heat oven to 350.
Saute’ onions and potatoes in olive oil until soft
Add artichokes and sun dried tomatoes and sauté until ingredients are mixed
Whisk eggs and parmesan cheese together and pour mixture over veggies, toss half the basil on top
Let entire mixture set for about five-seven minutes on top of stove on low-medium, heat. You don’t want it to cook through.
Once set, place frying pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle shredded cheese and bake additional 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil

STEAK PIZZAIOLA – can serve up to 6 people
This is one way to make your beef go a little further—especially if you add the potatoes— with a crusty loaf of Italian bread [great for dunking]

Ingredients
1 ½ – 2 lb. skirt steak or top sirloin
¼ cup flour/corn meal flour for dredging
2-3 cloves garlic – chopped
1 large onion – sliced thin
1 large red pepper – sliced thin
1 large yellow or orange pepper – sliced thin
[Note: I don’t use green bell peppers. Too hard to digest]
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 ¼ tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
¼ – ½ cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese [according to taste
½ – ¾ cup red wine
1 [12 oz.] can crushed tomatoes
3 cups of sliced potatoes [optional]

Directions
Dredge meat in flour and brown on both sides in frying pan with a little olive oil. 3-4 minutes per side.
Remove after browning.
Sauté’ garlic/onion/red pepper in pan
Add 1/2 cup of red wine to the pan and let cook down for 2-3 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, parsley, basil, cook until combined – 4-5 minutes.
Add meat making sure it’s covered/smothered in mixture.
Spread parmesan cheese on top.
Cover and cook 15 minutes. [You can add a can of potatoes if you want at this point]
Turn meat and cook additional 15-20 minutes, until cooked to desired temp.

January 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

Let me start with wishing everyone a happy, healthy, stress-less 2021. If you feel like you’ve been living in the spin-cycle of the washing machine, you are not alone. 2020 was a year where you wanted to hide under the bed as we were bombarded with bad news on a daily basis. So, for this new year’s resolution let’s “resolve” to be strong, and kind. I know it’s hard to be pleasant when your life is in chaos, but remember you are not alone. We are all going through this together, even if we are apart. Hang in there. I truly believe better days are ahead.

I want to thank all of my fans for supporting my books and watching the Hallmark movie this past year. The comments I received about my Christmas decorations were some of my best gifts. I am grateful that I can bring a bit of escapism, romance and a little adventure into your lives. Speaking of an adventure, my new feline family has given me lots of laughs and love. I had no idea cats could be so affectionate and playful. Yes, they play with everything. And I mean everything. It was quite the challenge keeping them out of the Christmas trees! I wonder what they’ll try to conquer this month!

On the book front, Bitter Pill has landed in the stores with a spectacular package. This is #32 in the Sisterhood series but if you haven’t read any of the previous novels do not be dismayed. You can pick this up and get a lot of background throughout the story. All you need to know is that it’s a tight, talented group of women with one agenda: getting justice when the system has failed. From Aspen, to Sag Harbor, to London, the sisters track down a few wicked, greedy doctors who prey on rich widows. There are lots of shenanigans on both sides making it a thriller across America and the Big Pond. I’m not going to give away any more of the story, but trust me, it’s a satisfying read. At least that’s what the early reviews say!

Most of us will be dealing with winter weather so I am going to leave you with a few recipes for comfort food. Please be safe, and let’s look forward to a year of God’s good grace.

All the best,
Fern

January 2021 Recipes

Pasta Fagiole (pronounced pasta fa-zool) an Italian staple:
Serves 6
1 box (1 lb.) of mezzi rigatoni (that’s small rigatoni) or small shells. Cook as directed on package when it’s time – usually 12 minutes
2 (8 oz.) cans of cannellini beans – drained and rinsed (if you want to use dry beans, soak them overnight)
1 (16 oz.) can crushed tomatoes-do not drain
(3-4) cloves of garlic
(1) teaspoons dry oregano
(1) Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian) or (1) teaspoon dried
(1) Tablespoon chopped fresh basil 0r (1) teaspoon dried
(2½) Cups grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (save ½ cup to sprinkle when serving)
Crushed red pepper to your taste (I like it hot!)
(2) Tablespoons olive oil

Sauté garlic in olive oil until soft. Don’t let it burn. You can remove it once the aroma is infused into the oil.
Add tomatoes, oregano, parsley, basil, and (1) cup of the grated cheese
(If you want to add a dash of red wine that’s fine too!)
Let simmer for 30 minutes then add the beans.

In a large pot boil the macaroni until it is almost done (al dente). Don’t worry it will soften more after you add it to the beans and tomatoes.

Once cooked, drain the pasta and add to the beans and tomato mixture, add (1) cup of cheese. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

Sprinkle remaining cheese (and crushed pepper). Serve with crusty Italian bread.
This freezes well too.

Balsamic Chicken Stew
1 lb. of chicken (boned and cut into 2 inch pieces)
(3) tablespoons olive oil
(1) teaspoon salt
(1/2) teaspoon fresh pepper
(3) celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
(4) carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces or a small bag of baby carrots
(2) shallots
(3) cups of cut up potatoes
(1) cup vegetable stock or chicken stock
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
(2) tablespoons dried tarragon
Serve with egg noodles

Salt and sauté chicken until brown. Do not overcook. Set aside.
Sauté shallots, celery, carrots, and potatoes until brown
Add stock, vinegar, tarragon to vegetables, then add the chicken
Cook in a crockpot or stovetop for 2 hours. Season to taste.

December 2020 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

2020 sure has been one heck of a ride.  As we approach the holidays many of us will add more loops and dips to this rollercoaster of a year.  From trying to figure out where to go, who to visit, and what to buy, the stress can be overwhelming.  You made it this far.  You got through Thanksgiving.  A few more weeks and we’ll be on to a New Year.  I, for one, will be glad to see 2020 fading into the distance of my rear view mirror.  But please continue to keep safety in mind.    Wearing a mask.  No fun.  Being separated from family.  No fun. Well, maybe for some. Everyone has one crazy relative.  Just think, you won’t have to spend it with them this year!  Yes, the holidays can throw you for a loop.  Keep your balance.

As I mentioned in last month’s letter,  if you’re on edge try to downshift your anxiety. If nothing else COVID19 has forced us to re-evaluate our priorities.  Make them count.  Nothing is more important than good health and a good frame of mind.  They go hand in hand.  So if anyone tries to rattle your cage shrug it off if you can.  We’re all trying to make it through this cluster-challenge intact.

For those of you who have been following me, you know I go all out for Christmas decorations.  Check out the photos of my house and all the sparkle, shimmer, glitter, ornaments, foliage, swags and bows. Martha Stewart would have a seizure if she came to my house!

Once again I must mention my cats.  They are little maniacs.  They think I had the house decorated just for them and it’s their own personal amusement park!  They are having lots of fun wrecking the place.

Speaking of fun we have the Hallmark Movie coming on December 13th at 10:00PM Eastern Time.   The new title is Unlocking Christmas starring Taylor Cole and Steve Lund.   Here is a link to see some of the photos of the shoot.

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/unlocking-christmas

We should have a link to the actual commercial in a few days so stop back to check it out.

So remember my friends, think good thoughts, keep calm, and carry on.  Be safe, be sane, and enjoy this unusual season.   Let’s all bounce forward with a renewed spirit and better days ahead.   Cheers!

Don’t forget to enter the contest to win a copy of the next Sisterhood Novel, Bitter Pill.

All the best,
Fern

December 2020 Recipes

Fresh Apple Cake, courtesy of Deb Yarmula

Ingredients:

You will need (3) large mixing bowls, Bundt pan, shallow baking pan
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 ½ cups chopped Granny Smith apples – cored and peeled
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325.  Coat 10 inch Bundt pan with non-stick spray and lightly floured.
Spread walnuts in a separate pan and toast for about 7 minutes until golden.  Cool completely.
In large bowl whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.
In another large bowl combine walnuts, vanilla, cinnamon and 3 cups of the cut apples.
In third bowl beat sugar, oil, and eggs with electric mixer on medium until well blended.
Turn mixer to slow speed and gradually add the flour mixture from bowl 1. Scrape bowl occasionally with spatula.  Beat one minute longer of until well combined.
Fold in apple mixture from bowl 2.
Once all ingredients are folded together spoon batter into bundt pan. Add remaining apples to top and gently press into mixture.
Bake 1 ½ hours or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on rack.  Serve with a big helping of ice cream.

Christmas Eve Dinner Italian Style
Eggplant Stacks

(2) large eggplants, skinned and sliced ¼ inch thick
(3) cups Italian flavored breadcrumbs
(2) eggs beaten
(1/4) cup milk
(2) cups Parmesan cheese
(4) tablespoons chopped parsley
(2) teaspoons dry oregano
(2) cups Ricotta Cheese
(8) oz. tomato sauce – Prego or other brand
(2) cups shredded mozzarella
(1) cup olive oil

Mix eggs and milk in a bowl.
Mix breadcrumbs,  and half the Parmesan cheese, parsley, and oregano in a different bowl.
Heat olive oil to medium.
Dip eggplant in egg batter and dredge through breadcrumb mixture.
Place eggplant in frying pan and brown on both sides.
Place on paper towels.
Mix/whip ricotta cheese and remaining ingredients (except mozzarella) together.
Let the eggplant cool.
Begin stacking.
1 slice of eggplant, top with 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture—spread on eggplant; add another slice of eggplant; top with a spoon of tomato sauce and a tablespoon of mozzarella.
Repeat until you have 3-4 slices of eggplant per stack.
Once assembled, bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until cheese melts.

Shrimp Scampi

1-2 lbs. JUMBO shrimp/shelled and deveined (leave tail on or off)
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
4 tbs. butter
4-5 cloves garlic minced
¼ cup dry white wine or vegetable stock
2 tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup chopped parsley
Crushed red pepper if desired

Heat olive oil and ½ of the butter.  Saute’ garlic 2 minutes
Add shrimp and saute on one side for 2 minutes
Flip shrimp and pour wine/stock over shrimp, cook 3-4 minutes
Shrimp should be pink.
Add remaining butter, lemon juice, and toss parsley into shrimp (red pepper)
Remove pan from heat.
Can be served over linguini or rice if desired

Stuffed Flounder with or without crabmeat

1 Piece of founder per person (using 6 pieces for recipe)
1 cup chopped crab meat (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
4 lemons for garnish – cut into equal pieces
Zest and juice of (1) lemon
2 cups breadcrumbs Italian flavored breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated parmesian cheese
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
4-5 cloves finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon oregano

Rinse flounder and pat dry.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat butter and ½ olive oil in sauce pan, add garlic and saute’ for 1-2 minutes.
Add breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, oregano (crabmeat if desired) and saute until blended and if adding crabmeat until cooked.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of mixture and spread in middle of flounder.  Roll flounder and hold together with toothpick.
Mix lemon zest and lemon juice together and pour over flounder.
Bake 15-20 minutes until fish turns white.
Once removed from oven top fish with any remaining stuffing.
Squeeze lemons over fish.