January 2022 Monthly Letter

Dear Friends,

This is what I wrote a year ago:

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.

It  doesn’t seem like much has changed, eh?   Feels like life is a hamster wheel or a recurring nightmare.  All I can say is the same things I said before.  Be strong.  Be kind.  Have faith.  And yes, I still believe we can get back to an old normal, because this new normal is kind of stinky.

The cats managed to mangle a few Christmas trees.  They think ornaments are toys.  Next year I may invest in rubber ornaments if they make them.  If they don’t, then someone should!  Based on the stories I heard, most pet owners would buy them for sure!

Once again I want to thank you for all your support last year and the years before.  Your kind words on social media mean a lot to me.  I’m not a big fan of social media because too many people use it in negative ways, so I greatly appreciate positive feedback and spreading a little cheer.

Time to talk books. For those of you who are Sisterhood fans, 19 Yellow Moon Road is on sale now.   If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, have no fear.  There is a lot of back story so you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series. This one was interesting to write because it deals with a very wealthy man who lures young women into a sex slave enterprise.  Sound familiar?  The subject has been in the news lately.  Sometimes I scare myself when I write about things that eventually happen.  Believe me, I do not claim to have any psychic abilities whatsoever.  It just seems to occur from time to time. Too bad I can’t do that with the lottery!  So this month’s contest will be a signed copy of 19 Yellow Moon Road.

No matter where you live, the weather seems to be unpredictable.  We’ve had temperature swings from 65 to 35 degrees in two days.  I worry about the trees and the plants.  They have no idea what’s going on.  Come to think of it, it seems like the weather has the meteorologists perplexed as well.

Let’s hang on to our hats, coats, and pantaloons and face the New Year with as much gusto as possible.  To help with that I am including some comfort food to fuel your soul.

Be well, be safe.  Be kind.  Have fun.

All the best,

Fern

January 2022 Recipes

Easy Minestrone Soup  (Minestrone comes from the Italian word Minestra which means soup!) Easy Soup Soup!

This is a very healthy, hearty soup.  It can keep in the fridge for about a week, and you can freeze it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil – I prefer Italian olive oil (EVOO or Light – up to you)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta (Mezzi Rigatoni or Shells)
  • 1/3 cup teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Sauté the celery and onion in oil and butter until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in the broth, tomato sauce, beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add macaroni; cook, uncovered, 6-8 minutes or until macaroni and vegetables are tender.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve with crusty bread.

Another hearty stew/soup:

CABBAGE & BEANS     

  • 1 (8 ounce) package dried beans, soaked overnight (or 16 oz canned white beans, drained)
  • ½ pound smoked sausage (or your favorite vegan substitute – sounds like an oxymoron to me) Pepperoni or Chorizo is good for this – set aside a few slices for garnishing
  • 16 oz chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

Directions:

In a large pot, combine the beans, sausage, broth, cabbage and butter.

Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and set a lid on top but leave a crack for steam.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the lid, add the tomatoes and; simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

And if you’re in a cheesy kind of mood:

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

December 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Looking back I think I’m having Déjà vu all over again.  People are still arguing about masks, but this year we can add vaccines to the mix.  And now they’ve given us one more thing (Omicron) to fuel our angst. How about this:  Dear Santa, Can You Please Give Me Some Peace? Honestly I think everyone could use a big dose of it.

So here we are riding the rollercoaster of the holidays and it’s enough to make you queasy.  Yes.  Let’s all admit it.  Neither you nor I are Super Heroes.  We can only do what we can do without doing bodily harm to ourselves, or that jerk in front of you in line at the store.  Ha. Ha.  I recall discussing “thought balloons” like they have in comic books.  The words that are in puffy-looking clouds.  So when someone starts to get on your one last nerve, imagine them getting hit in the face with a cow-pie!  You’ll probably laugh out loud at the image, and everyone around you will think you’re cuckoo and will get out of your way.  See?  Imagination  can be used in many ways.

I trust most people got through Thanksgiving.  I’ve been hearing that it was mellow for most—everyone is crispy around the edges.  But I did hear of a few skirmishes where people were asked to leave.  And that’s really too bad.  I wish we could flip a switch and have people simply be nice.  I feel like a broken record, but remember Kindness Doesn’t Cost a Thing…Be Generous.  You can really make someone’s day with a smile or a compliment.  But keep the compliments down to something safe like “Nice nail polish”  or “cool sweater.” People are very touchy so inanimate objects are your best bet.

I’d like to offer an idea if you are throwing a holiday party.  Ask your guests—instead of bringing wine, candy, cake, or cookies, etc.—bring an unwrapped gift for a kid, and donate them to Toys for Tots or a local charity.  Another idea is to ask them to bring imperishable food items [canned goods, rice, pasta, baby food] and donate them to the local food pantry.  It takes the pressure off your guests, you don’t end up with six fruit cakes, and everyone can feel good about doing a little something for someone in need.

Last year I said to hang in there and we had come a long way, and I was looking forward to 2021.  While it may not feel this way, 2021 was a little better, but it sure has been a long haul.  Take care of yourself and others.  Just be sure you put your oxygen mask on first!  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 make up a thought balloon.

I say this every year…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.

Before I sign off, I want to thank everyone for the wonderful comments and reviews for Santa Cruise. People needed a little escape.

I hope you are not disappointed,  but we are not going to run a contest this month.  The elves have a lot on their to-do list and I don’t want to overwhelm them.  Next month we will be running a contest for signed copies of the next new Sisterhood novel, 19 Yellow Moon Road.  All I will say about it is there’s a very rich man who owns a very private estate in the Caribbean and he “procures” women from a religious cult for sexual entertainment for equally international wealthy men.  Coincidently there is a woman on trial right now for aiding and abetting such a person, who allegedly committed suicide while he was in jail.  Considering I wrote the book over a year ago I think it’s rather timely.  Or, as my friend would say, “woo-woo!”

Have a happy, healthy, sane, holiday and a sane, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you and everyone who you wish the same.

Fern

December 2021 Recipes

Here are a few recipes for an Italian Christmas Eve dinner.  It’s usually 7 Fishes, but this is a good alternative:

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 sauté 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 parmesan 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 sauté 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.

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.

November 2021 Monthly Letter

Hello everyone!

It’s November!  Time flies when you’re having fun…and even if you’re not.  It just doesn’t seem fair! All we can do is to do our best, even if we’re weary.  I hope Halloween brought you more treats than tricks and now we are heading toward Thanksgiving.  We need to focus on those two words:  Thanks and Giving, especially with the holidays looming.  Many people have suffered a lot over the past year and a half, but as long as you can get out of bed and put your pants on you’re ahead of the game!  I don’t mean to be flippant—just something to think about.

Most of you know I am a news junkie.  Recently I saw an interview with a psychologist talking about all the anger people are feeling, and, unfortunately, acting out in ways that are horrifying. And most of it is displaced, like yelling at the clerk in the grocery store because the line is too long.  Do you really think they planned it that way?  I don’t think so.   I know I talked about this in my last letter but it’s a chronic problem and it’s up to each of us to try to stem the tide. All of us can do a little each day.  I don’t want to get preachy here, but I implore each of you to try a random act of kindness.  Open the door for someone.  Give a total stranger a compliment “Oh, I like your shoes!”  It will make their day, and as a result, it will also make yours.  I know life is very frustrating right now, but if everyone makes a small effort to be nice to one another,  I truly believe we can become more civil and kind, which will truly shift the energy in a more positive direction.

I say this now because as we approach the holidays people are going to be even more frustrated with lack of goods and services.  So, before you blow a gasket ask yourself, “Do I really need that thing?”  (I’m not talking about necessities, like toilet paper.)  Or if your children are becoming too demanding, reel them in.  They will only learn if you teach them.  As Crosby, Stills & Nash said, “Teach your children well.”

Now I shall step off my soapbox and talk about our contests for November.  We will be giving away (5) special links for an audio-book download version of SANTA CRUISE.  There will be a Special Holiday Contest Coming soon. Check back next week for details.

Have a wonderful THANKSGIVING!
Fern

November 2021 Recipes

Now on to the turkey and the fixings.  Left overs?  Turkey meatloaf! 

Depending on how much you have, chop 2-3 cups of turkey in a food processor…don’t pulverize it, just chop it.  Add left over stuffing and a little melted butter—2-3 tablespoons.  Form into a loaf pan and cover with foil. Bake on 325 for about 20-minutes until heated through.  As soon as it comes out of the oven spread cranberry sauce on top.  Voila!


If you are having house-guests you’ll want to have this handy and easy finger picking offering:

Ham & Cheese Sliders

  • 12 Hawaiian style rolls – split in half (top and bottom)
  • ¾ pound deli ham thinly sliced
  • ½ pound Swiss cheese
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.
Coat sheet pan with spray.
Place bottom of rolls on the pan.
Layer ham first and then cheese.
Place top of rolls over the cheese.
In a small bowl whisk the butter, mustard, dried onion, Worcestershire sauce.
Drizzle mixture over rolls.
Cover sandwiches with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
Uncover and bake 3-5 more minutes until tops are lightly browned.


And of course Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without Patricia Dorph’ s apple-pie recipe.

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 fridge for 15-30 minutes
  • 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 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!

October 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting my website.  I don’t know about you but as Yogi Berra used to say:  “It’s  Deja vu all over again.:”   It seems like we’re in a hamster wheel trying to move forward and getting nowhere.  Yes, some things have gotten better, but not enough.  People are still arguing over masks and vaccines.  Then when things seem to be opening up,  we get hit with another wave.  No wonder so many people are cranky.  Then there’s the whole school issue.  Virtual?  Hybrid? In-person?  I mentioned once before, I am so glad my kids are grown up and with the exception for one grandkid, they are no longer in school.  It’s a tough time for everyone and that’s an important thing to keep in mind.  We are all going through this.  A friend of mine was having dinner at a nice restaurant and there was a very loud and raucous group of five men.  They were terribly loud and annoying.  Finally she got up and walked over to their table and politely said, “Gentlemen (I know she used that word loosely) could you be so kind as to lower the decibel level just a bit?”  One of the men—who was a bit intoxicated—said “Listen lady, it’s been a rough year and a half. We’re just trying to have some fun. ”  She calmly said.  “Yes.  I agree.  It’s been a rough year and a half for everyone, including all the other people in this restaurant.  They too would like to have an enjoyable evening.”  Four of the men apologized, but Mr. Cranky Pants kept at it.  “And who do you think you are?”  He snapped.  She put out her hand and calmly introduced herself.  He had no choice but to shake her hand, otherwise he would have looked like a bigger jerk.  When she went back to her seat another gentleman at the next table said, “Thank you.  You did something the rest of us wanted to do.”  It takes a strong woman to be soft and reasonable.  I am sure she would rather throw a drink in his face, but that would only have escalated the situation.  My point is, no matter how much you want to smack the snot out of someone, take a minute and think about the outcome you want.  Peace or fisticuffs? And that’s  today’s lesson in tolerance.  It ain’t easy.  Try to be patient.

On to fun stuff.  I am happy to say HIDDEN has been a big hit and has been in the top 3 best-selling paperbacks for three weeks.  SANTA CRUISE just shipped and the cover looks spectacular.  It’s an entertaining read if I say so myself.  LOL.  Lots of shenanigans and a tribute to friendship.  To celebrate the book, each week for the  month of October we will be giving away a signed copy, so be sure you enter the contest. Winners will be chosen every Sunday at 12 PM EST so sign up as often as you’d like!

The kitty patrol are 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!

Be well, be safe, be kind, and try to have some fun.   All the best, Fern

October 2021 Recipes

Halloween is in a few weeks and we surely need a few treats.  For the bakers I want to revisit a wonderful seasonal pie, and a comfort food recipe.

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 12 Oz 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 for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 350 bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 2 hrs. and serve or refrigerate.

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.

Use the mushroom sauce on top of

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 2021 Monthly Letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well.  Hard to believe it’s September.  We’re 18 months into the pandemic, and now Mother Nature is giving us a pounding.  She sure is pissed at us.

It’s been a hard year and a half.  Just when you thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out to be an oncoming train!  It’s no wonder people are on edge, depressed, anxious, and angry.  We’ve got to remember the one thing we can control is how we deal with things.  I probably said that before, and now more than ever we need to hang tight and try to be loose at the same time.  Our mental health is major.

I know people are worried about kids going back to school; what is going to happen for the holidays this year; will the pandemic ever be over; should I hoard toilet paper again?  It’s been a whole lot of crisis management.  But it’s important to stop and smell the flowers, find some beauty, choose to find joy.  It’s out there somewhere.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing.  Watching my hooligan cats gives me great joy.  No matter how hard things get or how bad they are, there has got to be something to be thankful for.

Speaking of cats, Mz. Boo, here’s her latest shenanigan.  I have a Christmas tree in my den.  It’s on a timer and I keep it lit year round.  It’s for my daughter, Patti who passed away at Christmastime several years ago.  One night I got spooked when the lights came on at a different time.  Now some of you know about the ghost named Mary Margaret.  For those of you who don’t, I live in a very old house.  Over a hundred and fifty years.  Lots of history, and apparently there’s some about a young woman named Mary Margaret who shows up occasionally.  I’m not cuckoo.  Many people have experienced her presence.  It’s not scary.  Really.  And if it was I wouldn’t tell you.  I’m Fern Michaels, not Stephen King.  LOL.  Anyway, back to the tree.  A few hours after the lights had mysteriously turned themselves on, the lights went out.  A few hours later they came back on again.  I didn’t know if it was a “sign” from the other side. Maybe Mary Margaret was visiting.  But enough was enough.  As I bent down to look under the tree there was Mz. Boo sitting next to the timer giving me a “what?” kind of look.  Somehow she figured out how to change it.  I kid you not.  A friend of mine told me a story last week about her newly rescued kitten and the momma.  Now she has four who create havoc.  Each night she sets her security alarm before going upstairs to bed.  It was around 2:00AM when she was startled awake by loud voices coming from the living room.  She sat up and grabbed the phone and wondered why the alarm didn’t sound.  She listened for a few more seconds and realized it was Andy Griffin!  The fur rascals knocked the remote on the floor and turned on the TV.  At least it wasn’t the news!  That would have been really scary.

I am very excited about the new books that are coming out in the next two months.  Last month I mentioned a new series about sister and brother who have shops in a large art center.  It’s an interesting and quirky set of characters, mystery, humor, and of course a little romance.  The first book is called Hidden and is on-sale now.  I think you’ll find it very entertaining.  Then in October the new Christmas hardcover, Santa Cruise will be on-sale.  Four friends on a singles cruise and lots of shenanigans—a romp on the high seas.  Actually, the Caribbean.  It’s a fun escape.

This month’s contest is a signed copy of Hidden.

Be well, stay safe. Put fun and joy into your life.

September 2021 Recipes

Pasta Fagioli (pronounced Pasta Fazool) – This should feed at least 6 people — and it freezes well too

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 loaves of Crusty Italian Bread
  • (3) 15 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 oz pancetta or approx 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups small pasta shells, uncooked
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • parmesan cheese, optional

Instructions:

  • Drain ONE can of beans and set aside.
  • In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and pancetta and sauté until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and sauté about 4 additional minutes.
  • Transfer sautéed ingredients to a blender or food processor and add the two other cans of beans (liquid included). Puree until smooth.
  • Add the pureed mixture back into the pot, along with the drained beans, the chicken and beef broth, salt, and crushed tomatoes. Simmer while pasta is cooking.
  • In a separate pot, cook pasta shells until al dente. Box should give you timing.  You don’t want them mushy.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat, drain and add to bean mixture.
  • Simmer everything together for 8-10 minutes.
  • If you like a little kick, top with crushed red pepper; Serve, topped with red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese, with crusty bread.

For those of you who have been assigned to the local cake sale, here is one of my favorites.  But I warn you, you will want to make one for yourself.  Just yourself.  It’s from Patricia Dorph who gave us her Busch de Noel cake last Christmas.

Patti’s Plum Cake

Ingredients:

  • 9” round pie pan – greased
  • 1 cup butter – softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2-3 plums cut into slices
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsps. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsps. Powdered sugar
  • Juice of lemon

Instructions:

  • Beat sugar into butter; add eggs and vanilla.
  • Add flour and beat mixture well.
  • Spread mixture into greased pan.
  • Starting in the center, place plums on top in wagon-wheel design (spokes coming from the center).
  • Bake 45 minutes – test with a toothpick.
  • Let cool.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar to taste, squeeze lemon juice over cake top of cake.