MEDIEVAL ROMANCES MAKE TOP 10 READS LIST FOR 2012!

More Fabulous News: DREAMSPELL, THE UNVEILING, and THE YIELDING make Relz Reviewz’ Top 10 Reads for 2012!

Cover Dreamspell Final                Cover Unveiling 1FinalKinSmashResolution                Cover Yielding 1NewFinalAmazSmash1012

Click for excerpt: Dreamspell

Click for excerpt: The Unveiling

Click for excerpt: The Yielding

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

APRICOT-BALSAMIC PORK LOIN CHOPS

The basil crust on this pork loin chop is a lovely addition, but it’s the apricot-balsamic sauce that wins the day (ask Junior Too–he sopped up every last drop, which he’s not inclined to do with most sauces). In other words, if you don’t have the time or ingredients, make it easy on yourself by foregoing the basil crust and simply drenching your chops in apricot-balsamic sauce. Delish!

Apricot-Balsamic Pork Loin Chops

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt

ground black pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts

4 boneless pork loin chops (about 1-1/2 lb, 1-1/4″ thick)

1/2 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1) Make your basil sauce: add basil, parsley, 3 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp), lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a blender; puree; add pine nuts to basil sauce and blend a few seconds to keep some of the pine nuts intact

2) To grill pan, add reserved 1 tbsp olive oil; heat to medium-high

3) Meanwhile, spread half the basil sauce on one side of each pork loin chop

4) Place pork loin chops, basil side down in grill pan and reduce heat to medium; spread remaining basil sauce on tops of pork loins; cook approximately 6 minutes each side until meat is no longer pink in center

5) While pork is grilling, heat apricot jam and balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat and stir often; when sauce is well combined, lower heat to simmer

6) Plate pork loin and pour apricot-balsamic sauce over top; serve immediately

Servings: 4

DREAMSPELL: Library of Clean Reads’ “BEST READS OF 2012”

DREAMSPELL, my medieval time travel romance, has made The Library of Clean Reads’ “BEST READS OF 2012” list along with Francine Rivers and Adriana Trigiani. Very honored.

For a complete listing: Library of Clean Reads

Excerpt: Dreamspell

Cover Dreamspell Final

ANOTHER 5-STAR REVIEW OF MY MEDIEVAL TIME TRAVEL, DREAMSPELL (4.8-star rating overall ~ $2.99).

Such a lovely way to end my day.

“What a cool book! I love time travel, but I am pretty picky about my choices. Sometimes it can be so hokey (smart aleck modern day heroine vs testosterone-laced virile hero). This was not the case. This one was done so well – an interesting and unique premise on how the time travel occurred, a beautiful and timeless love story, sweet story of mother/daughter bonds, wonderful history, plenty of action and villainous villains, all written intelligently and artfully.” To read the entire review and an excerpt, click the link: Amazon.com

Cover Dreamspell Final

AMAZING CRANBERRY-PECAN MIXED RICE

Obviously, I’m not as big on side dishes as I am on entrees and sweets, but this recipe is so good I have to pass it on. Although I used mixed rice this go around, wild rice is lovely too. Also, I did make it with chicken Rice-A-Roni once and it was delicious in its own right. Of course, that might have something to do with the cranberries, pecans, and roasted red peppers. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a combination like that.

Amazing Cranberry Pecan Mixed Rice

2 cups mixed rice (I used Rice Selects’ Royal Blend brand containing Texmati, white, brown, wild, and red rice)

1 chicken bouillon cube

3/4 cup dried and sweetened cranberries (Craisins)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3 scallions, sliced thin

1 large roasted red pepper, chopped fine (I used jarred and, in the past, opted for a mix of red and yellow that was not only tasty but very pretty)

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup sherry cooking wine (or the non-cooking kind, AKA very drinkable)

1 tbsp + 1 tsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1) Prepare rice according to package directions, adding bouillon cube to water in which rice cooks

2) During the rice’s last 5 minutes of cooking, to large mixing bowl add: Craisins, pecans, scallions, roasted red pepper, olive oil, sherry cooking wine, lemon juice, salt, and pepper; mix well; stir in cooked rice; transfer to a lovely serving bowl and send out into the world 🙂

Servings: 8

BLACK EYED PEA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO SPINACH SALAD

This was a winner at our Christmas dinner, so much that I’ll probably serve it again for New Year’s dinner. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is, after all, a Southern tradition. Thank goodness it’s such a tasty one!

Black Eyed Pea-Sun Dried Tomato Spinach Salad2

1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, chopped (reserve 3 tbsp oil)

1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

6 cups baby spinach

1) In medium-sized bowl mix: black-eyed peas, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, vinegar, reserved sun-dried tomato oil, and mustard; refrigerate 1 hour

2) Place spinach in large salad bowl, spoon black-eyed pea mixture on top and lightly toss; serve

Servings: 6-8 as a side

CHIPOTLE CORNBREAD AND GRILLED SAUSAGE SALAD

This salad is definitely a unique–and good!–taste experience and well worth the extra effort required to make your own cornbread croutons. However, if you’re pressed for time, store-bought cornbread can be quickly cut and toasted into croutons and, before you know it, you’ll have a tasty salad just begging to be dressed and eaten.

Chipotle Cornbread-Grilled Sausage Salad

CORNBREAD CROUTONS

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 tbsp minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

SALAD

1 lb italian sausage (I used Hillshire Farms’ Sweet Italian Sausage with Peppers and Mozzarella)

4 cup chopped romaine lettuce

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup red onion diced small

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced

1 orange bell pepper (or yellow), diced

2 tbsp minced parsley

Dressing of your choice

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil an 8×8 baking dish

2) CORNBREAD: To large mixing bowl, add: flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir to combine; gradually stir in milk, egg, and olive oil; mix in corn, chipotle pepper, onion, and cheese; pour mixture into baking dish and bake in oven 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; remove from oven (don’t turn off) and let sit 15 minutes; gently cut into 1″ cubes, place on baking sheet, and toast in oven 10 minutes, turning once; remove from oven and set aside

3) SALAD: Grill sausages, turning often, until done, about 10 minutes (in a grill pan over medium-high heat); remove to cutting board, let sit 5 minutes, and cut into 1/2″ slices on the diagonal; set aside

4) Assemble individual salads as follows: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, bell pepper, sausage, and cornbread; sprinkle with parsley and serve with dressing of your choice

Servings: 6

SHRIMP FRIED BROWN RICE

I love hearty brown rice with all its crazy good texture, but toss in carrots, red bell pepper, onions, and snap peas (oh, yeah, and shrimp) and don’t even think about offering me chopsticks. Spoon, please–big one! This was one scrumptious meal.

3 large eggs

1/8 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup matchstick carrots

1 red bell pepper, diced

5 green onions, sliced

8 oz sugar snap peas (I used frozen and thawed before cooking)

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp water

3/4 lb pre-cooked medium shrimp (peeled, deveined, tailless), each cut into 3 pieces

4 cups cooked brown rice (I used short grain that took about 45 minutes to cook)

1) In small bowl, beat eggs and salt

2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp) in large skillet over medium-high heat; pour eggs into skillet and cook, without stirring, 1-2 minutes until nearly set; flip and cook additional 1 minute; transfer egg to cutting board and cut into thin strips; set aside

3) Heat reserved 1 tbsp oil in same large skillet over medium-high heat; add carrots, red bell pepper, green onions, and snap peas; cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often

4) Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix soy sauce, sesame oil, and water; set aside

5) To vegetables in skillet, add shrimp and cook 2 minutes, stirring often; add rice and soy sauce mixture and cook until dish is warmed through; stir in egg strips and serve with additional soy sauce

Servings: 4 hearty dinner-sized portions

MUSTARD-COATED GRILLED FLANK STEAK WITH RED ONIONS AND RED POTATOES

Meat and potatoes. What else can I say–other than that my guys were quite pleased 🙂

MUSTARD-COATED GRILLED STEAK WITH RED ONIONS AND POTATOES

1/2 cup grainy mustard (I used a stone-ground dijon)

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tbsp chili powder

2 lbs flank steak, cut into 4 pieces

4 tbsp olive oil, divided

6 small red potatoes, quartered and chopped

1 red onion, quartered and sliced thin

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1/4 cup catsup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

3 tbsp water

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1) In small bowl, mix mustard, cumin, and chili powder; spread mustard mixture over both sides of steak, place on plate, and refrigerate one hour

2) 10 minutes prior to grilling steak, heat 2 tbsp olive oil (reserving 2 tbsp) in large skillet over medium-high heat and add potatoes and red onion; season to taste with salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes, stirring often; reduce heat to medium, add parsley, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (while grilling steak)

3) To grill pan (I used cast iron) over medium-high heat, add reserved 2 tbsp olive oil; place steaks in grill pan and grill both sides to desired doneness (we opted for medium, which translated to about 5 minutes each side)

4) Meanwhile, to small saucepan over medium heat, add: catsup, honey, red wine vinegar, water, rosemary, salt, and pepper; stir well to combine and bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat to simmer

5) Remove steaks from pan, place in center of plates, arrange potato-onion mixture around, and drizzle catsup-honey-vinegar over steaks and potatoes; serve

Servings: 4