Deep Edits and Black Bean Soup

Cleveland Immersion Class, 2017

For the last several months, I’ve been looking forward to the first week in September. I hosted an immersion master class with the incomparable Margie Lawson and eight of my NEORWA friends. We followed the immersion with Margie presenting at NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Conference. I learned how to use power words, have memorized rhetorical devices, and can deep edit like a boss.

Now that it’s over, I’m feeling energized and ready to take on the literary world by storm. Okay, maybe not–I’m still too tired and Margie would give me a frowny face for the cliche–but I certainly now have more tools to polish my manuscript.

If you’ve never done an immersion class or attended one of Margie’s workshops or online classes, I do hope you will. And in the meantime, here’s my recipe for vegan black bean soup (we ate a lot of soup), modified from Jonathan Waxman’s original meatier version (which is divine and which you can find in his book, A Great American Cook, on page 62):

Immersion Black Bean Soup
Serves about 8 hungry writers, or 10 less hungry ones

3 cups dried black beans
1 red onion, minced
cloves from 1 head garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (remove seeds from chile if you prefer less heat)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro (including stems), chopped, reserving a couple tablespoons of the chopped leaves for garnish
8 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
Tortilla chips
Creme fraiche or sour cream, Greek yogurt, or coconut milk yogurt

Rinse beans and soak overnight in a large pot of cold water. (You can also use the quick soak method–boil beans in a large pot of water for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool for an hour.) Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are golden. Stir in the soaked beans, chipotle, cilantro, pepper (don’t add the salt yet!), and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until beans are very tender. If soup is too thin, simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. If soup is too thick, add more broth or water.

Discard the bay leaf and add salt to taste. Use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you should get one, but in the meantime, you can puree the soup in small batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot). Reheat.

Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or creme and the reserved cilantro. (Unless you’re me, and you forget the cilantro.) Serve with a lime wedge and tortilla chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Time Travel Romance and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cj Fosdick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Wild Rose sister Cj Fosdick to the blog.  Here she is to talk a bit about her heroine in her Accidental series, the first of which is  on sale now for 99 cents, and to share her favorite Victorian era recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Take it away, Cj!

Cookies as Poker Chips?

Authors often share a brain with their heroines.  My favorite heroine, Jessica Brewster, is taller and slimmer than me, but we both have the same red hair, brown eyes, penchant for drama and taste for cookies. When Jessica participates in a living history tea party at Old Ft. Laramie with her late grandmother’s mysterious teacup, she never imagined she would actually become living history—in the shoes of her look-alike great great grandmother.

Fending off her ancestor’s charismatic first husband and raising her nine year old great grandmother are only two of the challenges she faces in 1886 while learning to cook, launder, and survive the bias and dangers of homestead life in Wyoming.  Her charade in The Accidental Wife grows complicated when the transformative power of love takes hold, and her ancestor’s wayward brother shows up with dark secrets of his own. In a cabin poker game, Jessica offers her famous chocolate chip cookies as poker chips.  (Since chocolate chips were not invented until 1937, she finds a way to improvise.)

Baking anything in a cast iron woodstove is a challenge to a well-educated single woman of the 21st century who often relied on take-out or the convenience of popping frozen meals into a microwave. Woodstoves couldn’t regulate baking temperatures well enough to produce cookies, but creativity is also the mother of pre-invention in a time slip. Jessica’s version of our most famous cookie uses a pocket watch and broken bits of chocolate bars bought at the Ft. Laramie trading post. In the end, Jessica’s ingenuity wins love and legacy in the poker game of life.

 

Jessica’s 1886 Chocolate Chippers

Since chocolate chips were not invented until 1937, time-traveler Jessica Brewster in “The Accidental Wife”
improvises this recipe found in her ancestor’s 1886 cookbook!

1 c. butter                               
1 ½ c. sugar
3 eggs
½ t. baking soda dissolved in a little warm water
2 ½ c. flour                             
Few drops of vanilla
Pinch of salt, nutmeg
3 or more chocolate bars  (raisins optional )

Add ingredients in order,  creaming first two.
Break up chocolate bars into about half the size of a fingernail & fold in. Refrigerate  dough.   
Bake about 10 min. @350 on baking sheets lined with parchment paper until edges brown.

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The Accidental Wife began life as an award-winning short story. The Accidental Stranger is the sequel to Jessica’s timeless journey with “…a fanciful twist on its genre,” according to Kirkus Reviews. Until August 31, the eBook of The Accidental Wife will be on sale for the first time at $0.99 at most online bookstores.

Amazon
Wild Rose Press
Website   
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Connect with Cj in her monthly Newsletter  for other recipes & special offers!

 

 

 

Winter Blog Hop , Day 15 – Making Mince Pies with Nina Croft

Portrait of writer Nicola Cleasby

Can you believe it’s Day 15 already? Today’s guest is my friend and critique partner, Nina Croft. Nina lives in Spain, but I think I made her a little nostalgic for England recently when I told her about my visit to her hometown in northern England. She’s sharing a post about English Christmas traditions, and a recipe for one of her favorites. Comment below on your favorite Christmas food for a chance to win a copy of Nina’s latest release, Flying Through Fire.

What’s in a Mince Pie?

I’m English, and although I tend to write aimed at the American market, my characters are usually English and my stories tend to be set in England. But the story I’m currently writing is set in Washington, D.C. and I’ve been inundating my crit partners with questions about all things American.

I’ve already had to become aware of the differences between American English and what we speak back home. It’s not just spelling, like realised and realized, but also actual words. We have lifts, Americans have elevators, we have pavements they have sidewalks. Jumpers are sweaters, cafes are diners, and boots are trunks.

And it goes deeper, to the food we eat and the way we celebrate certain festivals. So it’s no surprise to discover that there are also big differences between English and American Christmas traditions.

Which takes me to mince pies.

christmas-food-577876_1920Mince pies are a huge Christmas tradition in England. But after a bit of research I find that—it’s true—Americans do not eat mince pies at Christmas. In fact, it seems many Americans don’t even know what a mince pie is.

When I was growing up, we would always leave a mince pie and a glass of sherry out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve (and don’t forget the carrot for the reindeer), as a thank you for delivering the presents.

Another custom is that if you eat a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night you will have happiness for the next twelve months. The perfect excuse for indulging.

If you’d like to try and make your own mincemeat, here’s a simple recipe:
250g raisins
375g currants
100ml brandy
zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
300g shredded suet* 
250g dark brown sugar
85g chopped mixed peel
½ small nutmeg, grated
1 large Bramley* apple, peeled and grated 

Soak the raisins and currants in the brandy and lemon juice for 1 hour, then drain and set the brandy aside. Mix all the ingredients together, then pour in the brandy when everything else is well mixed. Spoon and press into sterilised jars, to exclude any air. Cover and leave for at least a fortnight. Then make your pies!

(*An aside from Marin: just to illustrate the UK-US differences Nina mentioned, it’s hard to find food grade suet in the US–it’s not the same as the suet we use in bird feeders! Use lard, shortening, or butter if you can’t find it. I don’t think we have Bramley apples in the US–at least, I’ve never seen one. Granny Smiths would be a good substitute. And if you’re looking for a recipe for the pie pastry, try this one from the BBC.)

flyingthroughfire_v3-500

 

Leave a comment and let me know your favorite Christmas food from your part of the world and get a chance to win a free ecopy of my latest release, Flying Through Fire.   

Thanks, Nina! My mouth is watering now. 🙂 To find out more about Nina or to subscribe to her great newsletter, visit her website at www.ninacroft.com/.

Winter Blog Hop, Day 12 – Victorian Cookies

SecretPromise_w9701_750Today’s scheduled guest is unable to be here, so I’m filling in with a Victorian era recipe for Cinnamon Cakes, which are actually cookies. I found it in Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery, and featured them in Secret Promise. Here’s an excerpt:

Zachary was curled up in a chair in the sitting room, reading.

“Zachary,” Anna said, “I have a surprise for you.”

Zachary’s head snapped up, and he sniffed the air. “Have you been baking, Mam?”

“I have not, but Mrs. Graham has.” The woman herself appeared at the top of stairs, smiling in welcome. She removed a cinnamon cake from the bag she carried and held it out to Zachary.

Zachary leapt out of his chair. “Is that for me?” He hesitated, looking from a smiling Mrs. Graham to Anna for verification.

Anna nodded. “Yes, it’s for you. Mrs. Graham spoiled me with treats when I was young, and I have no doubt she’d very much like to spoil you, too.”

Zachary took the cake, inhaling its sweet, spicy smell before devouring it in three bites. “Thank you, Mrs. Graham. It was delicious!”

Here’s the original recipe from the 1845 edition of Modern Cookery:

CINNAMON, OR LEMON CAKES

Rub six ounces of good butter into img_4520a pound of fine dry flour, and work it lightly into crumbs, then add three quarters of a pound of sifted sugar, a dessertspoonful of pounded cinnamon (or half as much when only a slight flavour is liked), and make these ingredients into a firm paste with three eggs, or four, if needed. Roll it, not very thin, and cut out the cakes with a tin shape. Bake them in a very gentle oven from fifteen to twenty minutes, or longer, should they not be done quite through. As soon as they are cold, put them into a clean and dry tin canister, a. precaution which should be observed with all small sugar cakes, which ought also to be loosened from the oven tins while they are still warm.

Flour, 1 lb.; butter, 6 ozs. ; sugar, 3/4 lb.; cinnamon, 1 dessertspoonful (more or less, to the taste) ; eggs, 3 to 4.

Obs. Lemon cakes can be made by this receipt by substituting for the cinnamon the rasped or grated rinds of two lemons, and the strained juice of one, when its acidity is not objected to. More butter, and more or less of sugar, can be used at will, both for these and for the cinnamon cakes.

And here’s my modern variation, which is a bit easier to follow:

CINNAMON CAKES
Makes about 4 dozen large or 6 dozen small cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6       oz. (approx 1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1        lb      cake flour (approx. 3-1/4 cups)
1        tsp    baking powder
1/4    tsp   salt
3/4   lb      sugar (approx. 2-1/4 cups)
1        tsp    cinnamon
3        lg      eggs

img_4518Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Mix together the baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon and add to the flour. Add the eggs and beat just until mixed. If the dough is too dry, add up to 1-2 tablespoons of milk, just enough so that the dough holds together.

img_4519Roll out the dough on a floured board to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a your favorite cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with decorating sugar (or if you really like cinnamon, use cinnamon sugar).

Bake in a 375 oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges.

Cool on a wire rack.img_4521

Just as an FYI, I omitted the salt in one half of the dough and compared the two versions. I liked the salt version a little bit better, but my kid noticed no difference in taste–so if you’re limiting your salt intake, go ahead and try them without.

Feel free to experiment and let me know what changes you made. 🙂

Taking Tea

I apologize, my friends, for my sad neglect of this blog. I have no excuse, really, beyond being busy and inefficient, and, if truth be told, possessing a certain degree of laziness. But never mind, I am back, so I hope I am forgiven.

Sitting in the queen’s chair at Hampton Court Palace (I’d been awake for 36 hours)

Lately I have been thinking about tea and scones far more than is normal for your average American. This past week I returned from a visit to England, where I traveled hither and yon with my dear college friend Helen, talking and laughing and walking and drinking tea at every opportunity in which wine (or gin, in Helen’s case) was inappropriate.

On my first day there I did obtain a scone with jam and clotted cream at Hampton Court (as one does), but all additional efforts to secure afternoon tea were for naught. We arrived at the tea shop as it was closing (as happened at Hughenden Manor and across the street from Jane Austen’s house), there was no clotted cream (said in a rather rude “even if we did have cream I wouldn’t give you any” sort of tone at the cafe in Hyde Park), or on one occasion (at the 1657 Chocolate House in Kendal), I was in the mood for a cup of chocolate and a sandwich instead.

Lady Bedford, circa 1830

Lady Bedford, circa 1820

Spending so much time drinking tea and visiting historic sites last week, I started thinking about the history of afternoon tea. Although tea as a beverage has been common in England since the mid-17th century, it was not until the 7th Duchess of Bedford was feeling a bit peckish that the concept of afternoon tea as we know it today was born. The story goes that sometime in the 1840s Lady Bedford, a close friend of Queen Victoria, found herself desiring a snack around 4 o’clock, halfway between lunch and the fashionably late dinner. She asked for a tray of tea, bread, butter, and cake. This repast was so pleasant she made a habit of it, and then began inviting her friends round to enjoy it with her.

Afternoon Tea–not to be confused with High Tea, which is another animal altogether–consists of tea, small sandwiches, cake, and scones served with jam and clotted cream. It is not only the meal itself but the ritual that makes afternoon tea what it is. Ideally, the tea should be loose leaf, served from a tea pot. Milk is added after the tea is poured, not before. (Apparently there is much disagreement on this issue–I had no idea it mattered so much.) There is also great debate about whether jam should be slathered on the scone before the cream. In the spirit of research I tried it both ways, and admit I prefer jam then cream, which gives one the ability to add far more cream than is strictly healthy.

In an effort to make up for my lack of afternoon tea while in England, I shall be baking scones, brewing tea, and eating this afternoon. (Unless I have to go watch middle school boys play hockey, or take a nap.)

img_3981

Here’s my recipe for scones:

8 oz (approx. 1-3/4 c) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 oz (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 oz (2 T) sugar
4 fl oz (½ c) milk

*Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
*Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and the milk and lightly mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.
*Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Spread the dough using your hands until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out 8-12 scones using a 1-1/2 to 2 inch fluted biscuit cutter. Press straight down–do not twist, or the scones won’t rise properly. (Ask me how I know!)
*Place the scones on to the baking sheet and brush with milk or an egg wash.
*Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
*Serve the scones warm with clotted cream (or butter) and your favorite jam. If you can’t find fresh clotted cream in your local grocery store, or you object to paying $10 for a jar, you can find a number of recipes online. Here’s the one I’m planning to use, although it takes so long it will have to wait until next weekend’s afternoon tea: https://fearlessfresh.com/make-clotted-cream/. I’ll let you know how it goes!

For more information on the history of afternoon tea:
http://www.creamteasociety.co.uk/history-of-the-cream-tea
http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/afternoon-tea/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-mirza-grotts/the-history-and-etiquette_b_3751053.html?
https://www.fortnumandmason.com/fortnums/short-history-of-afternoon-tea

 

 

 

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