Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Of Sia's Special Recipes

My scheduled blogger has the creeping crud I decided to move up my recipe blog. On Monday I will share some other recipes. Do share some recipes back, if you have the time. I love trying new things. So copy and paste a favorite recipe.

This time of year there are lots of invitations to holiday functions. When it’s family or friends we also tend to bring something to add to the dinner by way of a side dish or desert. In my family we always love to contribute to the meal. We’re a big group when you consider my mother had nine kids and most of them have mates and/or children. That’s huge when everyone shows up. Over 50.

 The tradition in our family for holiday meals like Thanksgiving, the host gets to decide the main course. For example, my mother and her husband hosted this year and cooked a huge turkey, the mashed potatoes and gravy and one veggie—this year mama did up one of her special fixings of homegrown pole beans, one desert, iced tea, coffee and tables. We then supplement the meal with sides, deserts, and additional drinks, appetizers, and meats. My brother, Mike, is a hunter and so he brought venison (I do have some good recipes for venison although I’m sharing them at this time), another brought a glazed ham. Sometimes I’ll do another meat dish or a soup—whatever fits with the main menu plan and I love to bake cakes and pies.

Here are three (special) main dishes easy for me to make ahead of time and bring:



  • 3/4 C. pineapple juice, divided
  • 1 C. cream of coconut, divided
  • 1/2 C. soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. rice-wine vinegar
  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips (I do use thigh meat too)
  • 1 C. flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 (2 lb.) bag shredded coconut
  • 3/4 to 1 C. peanut oil
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream

Combine 1/4-cup pineapple juice, 1/4-cup cream of coconut,
soy sauce, brown sugar and rice-wine vinegar in a large
bowl. Add chicken strips, cover and refrigerate 4 hours
or overnight. Place flour in pie plate and add salt and
pepper. Beat eggs and 1/4 cream of coconut. Place shredded
coconut in a bowl. Dredge chicken pieces in flour, then 
egg mixture, then coconut. Heat just enough peanut oil in 
a sauté pan to cover the bottom of the pan. Sauté the 
chicken strips in peanut oil, about 5 minutes on each side.
Do not let oil become too hot or you will over brown the 
coconut. When chicken is cooked, remove from pan and keep 
warm. Drain the pan of any leftover oil but do not scrape 
out the drippings. Add the remaining 1/2-cup pineapple juice
and 1/2 cup cream of coconut to the pan along with the heavy
cream. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until sauce 
has thickened. Use sauce by pouring over the chicken or as
a dip for the chicken pieces.

RICE STUFFED PORK ROAST (this one is a real favorite in my house)

  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 4 cup cooked brown rice (I’ve also used white rice, or added wild rice, or made a pilaf styled)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice; divided
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon diced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 Boneless pork loin roast (3-1/2 lbs.), rolled and tied
  • 1 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed (I really like rosemary and tend to use more)
  • 1/4 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 16 ounces canned cranberry sauce
  • 1 orange, peeled & sectioned

Cook almonds in butter in large skillet over medium-high heat
until brown. Add onions and celery; cook until vegetables are
tender crisp. Stir in rice, 1/2 cup orange juice, orange peel, 
1-teaspoon ginger, and salt; set aside. Untie roast, and spoon
rice mixture lengthwise between loins. Retie roast securely 
with string at 2- to 3-inch intervals; place, fat side down, 
on rack in shallow roasting pan. Combine rosemary and pepper;
sprinkle over roast. Insert meat thermometer does not touch
stuffing or fat. Bake at 325 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. Combine
cranberry sauce, remaining orange juice, remaining ginger, and
orange in small saucepan; stir well. Simmer over medium heat 25
minutes, stirring occasionally. Brush about 1/2 cup cranberry 
mixture over pork. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until meat 
thermometer registers 170 degrees. Let roast stand 10 minutes. 
Remove string and slice roast. Serve with remaining cranberry 
6 Servings

  • 2 large lemons, zest of 1 removed in strips with peeler
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7-pound leg of lamb
  • 2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives (I also substitute finely chopped green onion tops)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off and discard pith from zested lemon and cut off and discard zest and pith from other lemon. In a saucepan of boiling water blanch zest 1 minute  and drain in a colander. Cut each lemon crosswise into 6  slices. In a small food processor blend rosemary, garlic,  zest, 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice, and salt until mixture is chopped fine. With tip of a small sharp knife cut small  slits all over lamb and rub rosemary mixture over lamb,  rubbing into slits. Arrange lemon slices in middle of a large roasting pan and arrange lamb on them. Roast lamb in middle  of oven 45 minutes. Quarter potatoes and in a saucepan cover  with salted cold water by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil and  cook potatoes, covered, 5 minutes. Drain potatoes in colander and in a bowl toss with remaining tablespoon oil. Arrange  potatoes around lamb and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast lamb and potatoes, stirring potatoes occasionally,55 minutes, or until meat thermometer registers 140 degrees. for medium-rare. Transfer lamb to a cutting board and let stand 15 minutes. Increase temperature to 450 degrees roast potatoes and lemons in one layer 5 to 10 minutes more, or until golden.
Transfer potatoes and lemons with a slotted spoon to bowl and 
toss with chives. Transfer potato mixture to a platter.
Slice thinly across grain and serve with potatoes. 
Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and lemon wedges.
Serves 6

Tis the Season. What are some of your favorite recipes to share?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chatting Over Coffee With Samantha Hunter

It’s my pleasure to have romance author, Samantha Hunter, visiting Over Coffee. I enjoy reading Sam’s books and I haven’t read one yet that disappointed me. I admire her ability to tell an interesting story. But many can tell an interesting story. What I like is not only the realistic characters she creates but also her understanding of people and places. Where we come from plays a big part in how we view the world, how we act, and I like how she gets that.

Sam is an interesting person and a very creative, grows flowers and orchids as well as quilts. I had the chance to ask Sam some questions to satisfy my curiosity and share a bit more about who she is with you.

Sam, thank you for stopping by Over Coffee. It's always a pleasure to have you visit. You write wonderful love stories with some memorable characters.

Aw, thanks Sia – and thanks for having me by for coffee – we need it here in Syracuse right now, because we are being hammered with SO MUCH snow. If I am not here in the morning to respond, it’s because I am outside shoveling…

Tell me a bit about you?

And so, about me – I am a lifelong (God help me) Central New Yorker, and I love it here, except in winter. I am happily married to a wonderful man I met on the internet about 17 years ago, and he’s my real life hero, in fact, my first Blaze was inspired by how we met.

What a nice thing to hear you say about your husband! I know you’ve done quite a bit of work in non-fiction/technical and you’ve worked as an editor?

I have a Masters in English, and so I was teaching for 12 years before I started writing, and I have also done stints as a features editor and copy editor for a tech trade magazine. I have a degree in Geography as well, a subject I love and which infuses all of my writing, though I never have worked in the field.

I’ve definitely noticed the correlation between your knowledge of geography and character development. So here you are a success in your professional life and you decide to write fiction and sold the story inspired by how you met your husband?

I sold my first book almost by accident – I wrote Virtually Perfect with the encouragement of my good friend and fellow teacher (we worked in the same college dept) Cara Summers, and it sold. And that changed history for me – I decided to write full time, and now, well, here I am. :-)

Can you tell us a bit about your personal love story? How did you meet and what was it that made him unforgettable in your eyes and heart?

Well, we met at a place online called LambdaMOO, a scientific project in early social spaces on the internet (1993 – before there was any kind of dating sites, etc – we just met, and at the time, it was relatively unusual). I was actually seeing someone else at the time, but that was a fling. He was getting out of a bad relationship. We lived a few states away, and he was quitting his job. I had a 10 year old (who is now 26 and built like a linebacker--a great kid with a good heart).

But anyone looking at us would have thought it had all the markers of being a disaster. ;) Then I remember getting his picture in the mail and just being knocked over. I just knew. I still carry that photo in my wallet.

We met after three months of talking online; two months after that he moved in with me, and three years later we got married. I’m very, very fortunate that our careers, while different, have dovetailed in that he is an editor/writer for tech trade, and I am a writer, and he also teaches (as do I, part time). So we have a lot in common, and these days, we both work at home. So we spend a lot of time together, and we love it (which mystifies a lot of people), but it works for us.

I can understand that. My husband and I worked together for 13 years. :-)
What was the last thing your husband did for you that made you go awww?

So many little things. We’re not really into big gestures, but he’s very caring and affectionate, and little things when I don’t expect them, if he notices I have an achy shoulder and offers to rub it without me asking, or … well, a million little things like that. In the way of pretty amazing stuff, he always makes my birthday dinner, and this past year he made a complete home made Spaghetti dinner, sauce, meatballs, cake, all of it – home made. It was awesome. I am slowly luring him into taking over the cooking. :-) (Shhh… don’t tell).

When you’re not writing or working, what are things you like to do? I know you love growing flowers…?

I do love flowers and quilting, too. If you check my blog, you can see a project I am trying to finish now, but we’ll see. It’s coming along, but I am sewing in whatever bits of time I have. Christmas Project. I’ll post some new pictures of it today…

It's beautiful! I just don't have the patience to do that sort of work.

I also love my dogs and animals, and a lot of outdoor activities. Lately, my new passion is Yoga – I’m not great at it, but I love it! It’s making a huge difference for me physically and mentally.

What classes are you teaching this semester?

Two courses in technical writing. It’s been a wild time, as I am new to this community college, and it’s been about 8 years since I have taught. It took me a while to get back into it, but I was also finishing a book and working freelance, so you can say this fall has been a teeny bit crazy. :-)

LOL! You think? I would say more than a bit crazy. 

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make in writing?

Not being able to get out and go to work, to visit with co-workers, etc. I can talk with people online, but I do miss things like office Christmas parties, etc that kind of thing. I meet friends out for lunch, etc and teaching this term has been nice, because I met new people, other teachers, and got out of the house, which was great – I do get out of the house otherwise, LOL -- but you know what I mean.

Writing can be isolating, and you have to stay active, see people, get out, do stuff, to stay sane, IMO. That’s how I started quilting, too – one winter I had to get out of the house, have something else to do, see people, etc even though I didn’t own a sewing machine and I didn’t know anything (seriously, I knew NOTHING). But I got hooked. :-)

You write almost exclusively for Blaze? What is it about this line you enjoy?

I have published only with Blaze, though I have also been working on various single title attempts for a while. I keep working at it, and hope to one day expand my horizons a little (which I have also done with my Kindle books, a bit).

Mainly, I love the freedom I have at Blaze – we have a wide range of possible stories we can write – you can write something light and humorous, heavy and dramatic, or somewhere in between. I need that variety.

I also like the sexiness of it – to me, that’s real, in a world where sex often comes before love, and men and women are in charge of their own sexuality, careers, lives, etc but still hope for that special connection with someone. I like that we can have all kinds of heroes and heroines – we are not locked in to having one kind of character (not just alphas, etc), which is good for me, since I tend to like to write more nice guy, Gamma types, though they are not girly-men by any stretch. So, you know, I like a lot about Blaze, and I’m very lucky to be a Blaze author. I don’t imagine stopping anytime soon. :-)

In your latest book, your romance is centered on two people who have known each other since they were kids and are reconnecting. What is it about Reece you like—what made him fun to write?

One of my original title ideas was The Tease, because that’s how I saw Reece – he is the guy who teased this girl he liked mercilessly, but would defend her against anyone else who did – and now he’s teasing her in a whole new way. I like that they reconnect as adults and that spark has been there for so long, and it just bursts to life again. But he is a guy who has a good heart – he loves deeply, and cares for others. He can carry a conversation and still be a guy. He’s struggling a bit, and coming to terms with some difficult things, and I liked helping him along that learning curve. He sees himself in one way, but in the book, he gets to become more multi-faceted. He’s very sexy, and open to everything, and anything, that Abby desires. Yeah, I really like Reece. :-)

One thing I’ve always admired about your characters (especially the women)—they aren’t weak or whiny. They’re usually hard working professionals. What’s something you admire about Abby?

First and foremost, that she isn’t just going to give up what’s most important to her: her family business. She’ll fight for it and do whatever is necessary to make it work – but her strength is also her weakness – she forgets that she can’t do it all on her own, or that there might be more important things she needs to acknowledge. She takes her responsibilities almost too seriously. But work is very important, and so is family – those are at the core of her value system. She can’t stand to let anyone down, but she has to learn to put herself first a bit, too. (I love the talking to her parents give her in the book – just goes to show, you are never too old for mom and dad to set you straight! LOL).

Also, she is completely honest. She says what she thinks, she doesn’t play games (sex games aside – she loves those), and she’s forthright. I like people like that. No subterfuge. It doesn’t mean she’s always right, but that’s okay, too.

After looking at the cover, I have to tell you, I wouldn’t mind having a Reece with a naughty list under my tree, lol!

Yeah, he would look good in a red ribbon! ;)

Lolol! Yeah, he would, but truthfully he'd look good, a ribbon or anything. Ahem. So, what’s coming up next for you?

My next release is a June 2011 Blaze, MINE UNTIL MORNING, and this is a very interesting book for me in a number of ways.

  • First, it’s part of a 24 Hours:Blackout Series with Tawny Weber and Heather McAllister, so that’s exciting in and of itself.
  • Second, it’s my first book with a blind hero. Completely blind. And he’s a bodyguard who owns a bodyguard agency with his brothers – and he lost his sight protecting the heroine. So. . .my blind hero and his heroine, in a blackout for 24 hours. There’s a story. :-)
It was so interesting writing a blind character, and there are so many things about this book that I love. Jonas is a little crankier than Reece, but just as sexy, I think, and just as good hearted. His heroine, Tessa, owns a soap and lotions shop in Philadelphia, and I really enjoyed their chemistry.

  • Third, this book is the jumping off point for three more I will be writing, a Berringer Bodyguards series for Blaze about the three heroes --Jonas’s brothers-- who work in the bodyguard business with him. We meet two of the brothers in MINE UNTIL MORNING, as well.
So, those should be coming out in 2012, I believe, and before that, I have one more book (untitled at the moment) with a heroine who is a US Marshal – she’s the sister of my Texas Ranger from HARD TO RESIST, and she has quite a protection detail ahead of her looking after an ex-Navy Seal, now returned to his cowboy life.

Wow, that’s a full plate. And I am trying to get some new Kindle books out, too, so we’ll see what happens!

Any special holiday plans you’d like to share with us?

We had a really amazing Thanksgiving, with all the family here, etc and it was wonderful but really busy and crazy (in the good way), so I am looking forward to a somewhat quiet Christmas. Some family visits, meals, friends, and lots of sleep, reading, and staring at Christmas tree lights and my honey. :-)

Happy Holidays to everyone!

% % %

Back of the Book

From the time they were kids and neighbors, Reece Winston tugged Abby Harper's pigtails and tormented her. But when Abby—now the sole owner of her parents' vineyard—sees Reece Winston again after years apart, she's unexpectedly struck by the need to play a much more adult kind of game….

Then a freak accident forces her to stay with Reece, and Abby decides that what she really wants for Christmas is Reece—perhaps wrapped with a red bow. But as Abby and Reece explore their naughty lists, they begin to realize that nothing is quite as easy as it seems! EXCERPT

Samantha Hunter lives in Syracuse NY where she has been writing for Harlequin Blaze as Samantha Hunter since 2004. Previously employed as a writing instructor at Syracuse University where she earned Master’s Degrees in English/Rhetoric, Public Administration and Geography, writing her own books appeared to be destined when she once crossed out the name of the authors on her LIFE Encyclopedia at the age of six and wrote “By Sam Hunter” on the title page.

As of 2010, she’ll have put her name on sixteen novels of her own, with more in progress. Sam was a RITA “Suspense/Adventure” nominee in 2008 for her Blaze Extreme Untouched, a sexy paranormal romance, and she’s an avid reader of romance and mystery/suspense, prefers television to movies, and loves spending time with her husband, pets and in her gardens.

You can chat with her on, Twitter, and Facebook.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Musings: Shopping—Bah Humbug

I do not like shopping. I know that makes me weird but the idea of going into anything but my local grocery store about gives me hives. Shopping at this time of the year brings me about as much *joy* as fingernails on a blackboard. Weird things tend to happen to me when I do venture out to shop. After years of servicing Wal-Mart as a Rep, especially during the holidays, the idea of shopping there makes me break out in a cold sweat.

My son and husband are aware of my lack of enthusiasm for shopping but don’t share my allergy to shopping and crowds. We met in town for something totally different than shopping and we finished that task at just before five. I’m more than ready to go home when my husband utters the dreaded phrase, ‘need a few things at the store’. My heart sinks because the things we need can’t be found at Penny’s or any of the other stores, which are relatively quiet. Nooooo, he means Wal-Mart. At five o clock. During one of the biggest holiday shopping times of the year. Since I know I’m not going to get out of this I merely sigh and acquiesce.

First clue that is will be a less than fun time is seeing acres of cars parked. You would think, looking at all these cars, we were pulling into a big shopping mall. Nope. Just one store and one of the bigger supercenters. The nearest mall is over two hours away in two directions. Truthfully, I don’t even want to visit either of them—especially at this time of the year.

It’s insane inside. It felt like rush hour traffic with no stoplights. All that was missing was horns blaring (cursing and irritable people were present, however). Carts weaving in and around other carts in the center aisle and none of the other larger aisles were any better. See, I know this store. One of the ways I deal with it is to have a list in hand and get from point A to point B in the quickest amount of time possible. Not this day. Why is it people must stop and talk with on another adding congestion to an otherwise highly congested area? Had to go down two aisles and come up the other just to get to the aisle I wanted. These aisles are not tiny but when you have people stopping in the middle chatting it gets crowed. Fast.

One aisle I needed to get to have traffic jams at either in so you couldn’t get in or out of them. Four carts smack dab in the middle of the aisle opening spilling into the center aisle like a river delta area. Four carts, eight women, and at least that many children standing around and chatting with one another. “Oh Mable, honey, it’s so GOOD to see you …yada yada yada yada yada.”

I’ve already passed this aisle three times trying to get in and no luck.

I’m standing there patiently trying to maneuver so I can get into the aisle, I can’t move forward and I can’t move backwards because I have carts and impatient people behind me also wanting to get in this aisle. Meanwhile these ladies are oblivious and start exchanging recipes for god sake and more family and friends are joining them. Sheesh people, what ARE you going to have left to talk about over your family dinner for God sake? Haven’t you ever heard of exchanging emails or here’s a novel thought, pick up the phone and invite them over for coffee. No, they pick up the phone and call family and friends and tell them to meet them at Wal-Mart. Finally, I’m able to get past the clutch of gossiping women with only a look or two of impatience for my interrupting them.

Did I mention the two kids with built in roller wheels in their shoes? Hell bent for leather racing. Two steps from my cart and I'm reaching for grated coconut. Kid comes zooming down the aisle, grabs my cart to stop, which slams into me, which shot me right into commercial styled crash against the shelf facing and most of it coming down around me. Marshmallows flying everywhere, bags of assorted baking nuts, case of eagle brand condensed milk barely missing my toes.

Kid goes wide eyed, Oops, and takes off in other direction, leaving me stand in the middle of a disaster consisting of toll house chips, and all sorts of baking goodies and dried fruit all around me on the floor.

Yeah, it made a thunderous crashing noise, and then you add the screech from another poor shopper standing near me, it was really earsplitting. I'm afraid she had her back to me when a bag of coconut flew out of my hand smacked her in the back of the head and knocked her glasses askew with one earpiece hanging from her ear and the other on her nose. Well, maybe a few bags of marshmallow and dried fruit flew in her direction too. Clerk comes running up and stops dead at the sight and of course is looking at ME.

“If you needed help ma'am, someone would have been glad to help you reach the top shelf.”

“Somebody? Somebody? If I had to wait for assistance, I'd be a skeleton with spider webs hanging off me. Where was somebody when we had kid roller derby in here and the little terrors ran into me? And raced away, thank you very much.”

Screecher assured them that it wasn't my fault but kids. I'm still mumbling under my breath and brushing assorted fruit pieces and nuts out my hair and off my clothes. THEN the clerk is all worried about if I'm injured and calling for back up. Gads what a mess!

My husband walks up about two minutes later, his mouth drops open at the sight. “What happened? You okay?”

By now the whole aisle looking like a bomb went off and FEMA is on site. Needless to say the aisle is closed. I think most of the spare clerks were in the aisle and a manager or three. God help anyone else in the store that needed help. Me? I just wanted out of there.

No, I don't need to sit down, no I don't need an ambulance, I don't want to go to the doctor, I'm fine, yes I'll take your card and let you know if I have any further problems.

My husband’s mouth is twitching. I glared at him.

At last, I'm allowed to leave the baking aisle. I never want to see it again, just saying. My wretched husband is chuckling and pulling pieces of butterscotch chips out my hair. He reaches over and pick up something stuck half way under the v-neck of my sweater. “I always said you were a real peach and holds up a dried peach half.”

My son joins us a few minutes later. “Hey Mom, did you see what happened over here? Everyone came running in this direction. Uh Mom, you have raisins and chocolate chips in your hair...are you okay?”

“Oh I’m just peachy, son, just peachy.”