GRILLED CHICKEN AND PEAR SANDWICH WITH SPINACH PESTO

Don’t let the fluorescent green put you off–it’s all natural. And delicious! Even my guys, who are a bit wary of food with a “foodie” look, gobbled down these sandwiches. Of course, I don’t think they were aware of the pear in the middle 🙂

SPINACH PESTO:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Kraft Reduced Fat Mayo with Olive Oil)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

3 cups packed baby spinach

SANDWICH:

8 slices sourdough bread (make it a good one, like Panera’s)

1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast (deli-roasted chicken works well too)

1 pear, sliced thin

3 tbsp butter, softened

1) PESTO: To food processor, add: olive oil, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, salt, and pepper; process 30-45 seconds until well combined; add spinach and process 30-45 seconds until well combined

2) SANDWICH: Assemble each sandwich as follows: spread spinach pesto on both sides of bread; layer: cheese, chicken, and pear; top with second piece of bread

3) In large skillet (or grill pan) over medium heat, melt half the butter; place sandwiches in skillet; while bottoms are grilling (3-4 minutes), spread remaining butter on top pieces of bread; turn sandwiches and grill additional 3-4 minutes until cheese melts; serve, serve, serve!

Makes: 4 sandwiches

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 07/04/12–the one that disappeared into a black hole.

PROSCIUTTO-EGG SPINACH SALAD

Though we’ve definitely moved into soup season, I had no choice but to make salads for dinner last night. You see, I went overboard on the veggies when I made a detour to Costco, completely forgetting that my refrigerator’s capacity is less than infinite. And then there was the prosciutto that is far more affordable in bulk… So, here’s the recipe that freed up just enough fridge space for me to be able to close the door. No complaints–it was delicious.

10 cups fresh baby spinach (or romaine would be lovely too)

1/2 cup matchstick carrots

4 stalks celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup fresh green beans, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 cup frozen baby sweet peas, thawed

4 oz prosciutto, chopped

4 slices swiss cheese, chopped

4 boiled eggs, cooled and diced

1) Here comes easy: Assemble 4 salads on large plates, equally dividing and scattering ingredients in order listed; serve with the dressing of your choice (or none at all–good all by itself)

Makes: 4 dinner-sized servings

BUFFALO CHICKEN SOUP

I rarely indulge in Buffalo Wings, though I often gaze longingly at them as my guys pick them clean. Love ’em, but the things they do to my waistline… Oh me of little metabolism. Enter Buffalo Chicken Soup, a wonderfully delicious alternative. Just ask Junior Too. Oh he of second helpings 🙂

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup matchstick carrots

4 cups 1% milk

1 cup light sour cream

1 can reduced-fat condensed cream of chicken soup

1 can reduced-fat condensed cream of celery soup

2-10 oz cans chicken breast, undrained (or 3 cans if you like meatier soup)

3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot Wings brand)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1) In large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat; add celery and carrots and cook 5 minutes

2) Stir in milk, sour cream, chicken soup, celery soup, chicken breast (undrained), buffalo wing sauce, and salt; stirring continuously, bring to a boil; lower heat to medium-low and, stirring often, cook 25 minutes; serve scattered with parsley

Servings: 6-8 dinner-sized portions

PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE (IN THE SPIRIT OF STARBUCKS)

Last week I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Coffee, not to be confused with this recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte, although both are incredibly delicious and perfect for wrapping one’s self in the feel of fall. The latte version differs in its use of espresso as opposed to coffee, a slight decrease in the sugar department, and a larger serving size. Regardless, if you like Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte, you can’t go wrong with either recipe. As an added bonus, for those who aren’t coffee drinkers or who are looking for a nice hot drink to serve to the young ones after their noses have been nipped by the frosty air, consider serving “Hot Pumpkin Spice” without the addition of espresso or coffee–a tasty alternative to hot chocolate.

2 cups milk (I used 2%)

4 tbsp canned pumpkin

4 tbsp white granulated sugar

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

4 oz freshly brewed espresso (yes, you’ll need espresso beans and an espresso maker–but you can always use coffee)

Optional: whipped cream (recommended if you can afford the calories) and sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

1) In medium saucepan over medium heat (medium high if you’re in a hurry and willing to stir continuously), combine milk, pumpkin, and sugar; cook until steam rises

2) Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and, stirring continuously, cook 1 minute; remove from heat and divide between two mugs; pour 2 oz espresso into each mug; serve with or without optional goodies

Makes: 2-12 oz servings (My cost? Less than $1.00 per serving.)

BACON-FETA BURGERS ON AVOCADO-TOMATO BED

Here I am when where I should be is at the tail-end of a Word document wrapping up a crucial scene in the last book in my new series. But how could I resist posting this recipe? Not that I’m much of a burger muncher, but toss out the bun and replace with slices of juicy tomato and avocado, flavor beef with Worcestershire and onions, and top with bacon and feta… Well, yeah, Christian and Gaenor can wait on their resolution–you know…simmer a bit 🙂

2 eggs

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup diced onion

1-1/2 lb lean ground beef

4 slices turkey bacon, cut in half

1 avocado, sliced thin

1 large tomato, sliced into 4 thick pieces

4 tbsp feta cheese

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2) In large mixing bowl, lightly beat eggs; beat in salt, pepper, and Worcestershire; add onion and ground beef and mix well to combine; form into 4 patties; set aside

3) Heat large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat; add bacon and cook 2-3 minutes each side until just crisp; remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towel (leave bacon grease in skillet for burgers)

4) Add burgers to skillet; sear each side 3-4 minutes

5) Place skillet in oven and cook burgers 8-10 minutes for medium well (adjust according to preferred doneness)

6) Meanwhile, place avocado slices in center of each of 4 plates and top with tomato slices

7) Remove skillet from oven and criss-cross each burger with two bacon halves; top with 1 tbsp feta cheese; return to oven and cook additional 1-2 minutes; carefully center burgers atop tomatoes and serve with side of your choosing (yes, I went easy on myself with the pepperoncini); serve and munch away!

Servings: 4

BLACKBERRY CREAM CHEESE STRATA

Shoot! I forgot to snap a picture of this strata when it came out of the oven in all its casserole-sized glory. But at least I managed to get a picture of a single serving. Think of this dish as a sweet take on a breakfast casserole–so tasty!

1-1 lb loaf challah bread (croissants would be yummy too), cut into 1″ cubes

7 large eggs, divided

2 cups half-and-half

2 tbsp granulated white sugar

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

12 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1-1/2 cups blackberry jam

Confectioner’s sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a 9×13″ baking dish

2) Distribute half the bread cubes over bottom of baking dish

3) In medium bowl, beat 6 of the 7 eggs with half-and-half, 2 tbsp sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt until well combined; pour half the egg mixture over bread cubes in baking dish; set aside

4) In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, 1 remaining egg, butter, and 1/4 cup sugar until well combined; by spoonfuls, drop half of cream cheese mixture over bread and gently spread with back of spoon

5) By spoonfuls, drop half of blackberry jam over bread and gently spread with back of spoon

6) Distribute remaining bread over strata and repeat the process with remaining egg mixture, cream cheese mixture, and jam

7) Bake 45-50 minutes until strata puffs and sets; dust with confectioner’s sugar; serve

Serves: 6-8

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 07/09/12–the one that disappeared into a black hole (which is the reason WordPress and I met up).

SHARP CHEDDAR BEER SOUP

I can’t decide which I like better: Loaded Baked Potato Soup or Cheddar Beer Soup. Both are winners in my (cook) book. Though I typically use basic sharp cheddar cheese when I whip up one of these soups, I decided to spread around the love and added white sharp cheddar cheese to the pot. I won’t say there’s much–if any–difference in the taste, but the color is more mellow. As for the taste…delicious!

6 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup diced onion

2 stalks celery, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

12 oz beer (I used non-alcoholic O’Doul’s)

5 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tbsp dry mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1-1/2 cups grated white sharp cheddar cheese

8 slices turkey bacon, fried crisp and chopped

2 cups croutons (I used Texas Toast brand)

1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (for topping)

1) To large pot over medium-high heat, add butter; when melted, add onions and celery; cook 8-10 minutes until onion softens; sprinkle flour over onions and celery and stir continuously while cooking 2-3 minutes

2) Reduce heat to medium and stir in beer, scraping up brown bits on bottom of pot; stir in chicken broth, cream, dry mustard, and Worcestershire sauce; cook 10 minutes, stirring often

3) Reduce heat to low; stir in both cheeses; when cheeses have melted (about 5 minutes), stir in bacon and remove from heat

4) Pour soup into bowls and top with grated cheese and croutons; serve and settle in for a fabulously filling meal

Servings: 4-6 (How hungry are you?)

MAKING AND REWRITING HISTORY

My first published books were written for the general market, meaning they included the required love scenes. Since transitioning to the inspirational market with the release of STEALING ADDA in 2006, I’ve had quite a few requests to rewrite my mainstream medieval romances, either as clean reads or inspirational reads. Too daunting, I thought. But maybe not. A while back, I pulled out a copy of my first book, WARRIOR BRIDE, published in 1994 by Bantam/Doubleday. After bemoaning its yellowed pages (18 years will do that to a book), I began reading. A good story, if I say so myself, but–goodness!–I was a bit of a head hopper. Of course, back then I didn’t know the term “point of view” as it related to writing and, it seems, my editor didn’t mind. So, what to do with WARRIOR BRIDE? Can it be rewritten without the love scenes? Can the faith elements inherent in a book set during a time period known as “the age of faith” become more? I believe so. For now, though, I had best concentrate on my new series of medieval romances written specifically for the inspirational market. But time will tell 🙂

PUMPKIN SPICE COFFEE (IN THE SPIRIT OF STARBUCKS)

It’s that time of year again (earlier this year than last, it seems) when Starbucks reintroduces its wonderful Pumpkin Spice Latte. I indulged yesterday. But today…the frugal me kicked in and I modified a recipe found on Pinterest to satisfy my craving for a repeat performance. I still enjoy Starbucks’ version more, but not $3 more. This is quite tasty!

2 cups milk (I used 2%)

4 tbsp canned pumpkin

5 tbsp white granulated sugar

1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 cup strong freshly brewed coffee (I used french roast)

Optional: whipped cream (recommended if you can afford the calories) and sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

1) In medium saucepan over medium heat (medium high if you’re in a hurry and willing to stir continuously), combine milk, pumpkin, and sugar; cook until steam rises

2) Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and, stirring continuously, cook 1 minute; stir in hot coffee and serve with or without the optional goodies

Makes: 3-8 oz servings (My cost? Roughly $1.60 total or .53 per serving. Hmm.)

ALAN LOEWEN’S “RAMBLES OF THE LITERARY EQUINE” INTERVIEW

Note: The following is a repeat post salvaged from my original black hole-destined Kitchen Novelist blog.

Seven Questions for the Horse – Tamara Leigh

1) How has your faith made a difference in how you approach life and writing?

I’m a worrier, but as my faith has grown, I’ve come to trust God to lead me through difficult situations. I still get a sinking feeling at the approach of trouble. I still take it out on my fingernails. I still climb into myself and peek through my fingers at what appears to be insurmountable. However, as I’ve learned to pray for guidance and become more familiar with Scripture, the feeling of being overwhelmed has decreased. My faith has also affected my writing, as evidenced by how it began to weave itself into my general market historical romances—so much that revisions from editors often called for excising faith elements (Misbegotten was cut by 30,000 words). When I finally turned my writing efforts to inspirational fiction, I was thrilled to have the freedom to express my faith through characters who always manage to teach me something as they tackle the issues I throw at them.

2) Tell us about your journey from writing historical romance for the general market to writing contemporary romance for the inspirational market.

You know the saying “caught between a rock and a hard place?” That’s how it felt when, over the course of several years, I toyed with—and rejected—the idea of crossing over to the “other side.” The rock represented the general market medieval romances with which I’d had success, while the hard place represented the possibly failure-riddled world of inspirational romance. To make a long story short, I finally crossed over—only to question my decision when I learned that romance novels set during the middle ages aren’t well received by publishers of inspirational fiction. I grumbled when my agent asked for something different but eventually pulled out a story I’d written to relieve my pen and paper craving following a particularly long boycott of the publishing world. Thus, Stealing Adda, a humorous take on the life of a contemporary romance writer, ushered me into the world of inspirational fiction.

3) Are you a “plotter” or a “pantster?”

A “pantster” (heavy sigh), but I do work at becoming a “plotter” in the hope I’ll avoid backing my story into a corner as I sometimes do. Before I wrote the first chapter of Nowhere Carolina, the second book in my Southern Discomfort series from Waterbrook/Multnomah, I forced myself to construct a detailed outline. It was almost painful, especially as it took several weeks and I was itching to write the “real” thing. In the end, the outline paid off, but it still doesn’t come naturally.

4) In your opinion, how different is writing and publishing today versus when your first book was published in 1994?

The same, but different. When I say “the same,” I mean the author still needs to know her craft, be disciplined in her pursuit of a writing career, and deliver a great story in order to attract readers. As for how writing and publishing are different today, there are several areas that immediately come to mind. The first is the incredible growth and variety of genres in today’s inspirational market, which was fledgling when my first medieval romance was published. Then there’s the marketing aspect. In the nineties, my publisher discouraged my husband, an advertising executive, from participating in the marketing of my books. We were told it was the publisher’s responsibility and that any effort on our part was wasted. Today, publishers realize the importance of an author’s contributions to marketing and, at minimum, seek their input. At maximum, sometimes the demands on an author are so great it’s hard to find time to write the book. The next difference is the powerful influence of the internet that not only allows readers to purchase an author’s book without leaving home, but allows writers to connect with readers on a more personal level and makes the process of manuscript submission and revision easier and faster. The last difference—though certainly not least—is the rise and phenomenal momentum of self-publishing. More and more authors are dipping their toe in the water and finding it pleasantly warm. This past spring, not only did I release Dreamspell, a new medieval time travel romance as an ebook, but I re-released Stealing Adda as an ebook. Yes, the water feels pretty warm.

5) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If writing is “in your blood”—kind of like the first bloom of romance rife with infatuation, longing, and need—you WILL write. Through writer’s block, interruption, revision, criticism, and rejection, you will write. Once your story is on paper, you will REVISE. You’ll go back and detail characters, fill gaping holes, pump up scenes, check for consistency and point of view problems, etc. The next one’s a biggie: you will ask trusted friends to read your work and provide specific feedback. Then you will seek out experienced writers who are willing to mentor. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA) have local chapters you can join to network with other writers. Lastly, you will READ, not only books on publication and the craft of writing, but other authors whose work you admire.

6) What are some of the challenges you face as an author and what do you enjoy the most?

The usual challenges: deadlines, revisions, synopses, writer’s block— Yes, writer’s block. I know some say it doesn’t exist, that it’s an excuse and all it takes to get a story on paper is to sit down and do it, but that doesn’t always work for me. I sit, fingers on keys, poke a bit, sit some more, poke some more, but the block remains. Sometimes it’s a result of having backed my story into a corner and the only way to get it out is with a rewrite; other times, the well simply runs dry. As for what I enjoy the most, the solitude is wonderful. Creating characters that surprise me is fun. And readers are inspiring.

7) What project are you working on?

Since romance novels set during the middle ages have yet to be embraced by publishers of inspirational fiction, I’ve decided to release the first book in my new Age of Faith series, The Unveiling, as an ebook. Once revisions are complete, it will be available on Amazon. Here’s a peek:

For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind: to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact her revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy at all. Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.