Starlight's Curse - K. C. Sprayberry, Author

7:27 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves


(Brad knows the way to Jayme’s heart in Starlight’s Curse. What better way for a man to convince the woman he’s in love with to stick around than to whip up a dish that’s sure to warm not only her heart but also her stomach on a snowy winter night? These enchiladas are great for a couple or a family. Rarely does my household have any leftover to warm up the next day.)

1-1.5 pounds of lean ground beef, browned and drained
4 ounces plain cream cheese, chunked
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic chopped, or a couple of squeezes of minced garlic from a bottle
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon non-iodized sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or dried red pepper flakes)
15 ounce can enchilada sauce
2 bags of Sargento 4 cheese Mexican Blend (don’t substitute Taco Cheese. The spices will significantly change the flavor)
Flour tortillas                           Lettuce
Tomato                                    Avocado or Guacamole
Sour Cream                             Chopped Onions
Salsa (can be from the store or homemade)

Preheat oven to 350.

After browning and draining the lean ground beef, return to pan you’ve wiped out with a paper towel and cook again until all fat is absorbed. Add cream cheese and stir until it is completely melted into the meat. Add onion, garlic, spices, simmer for a few minutes to bloom the flavors. Take a handful of the 4 cheese Mexican blend and add to the mix. Remove from heat

Wrap flour tortillas in paper towels and microwave to soften about 2 minutes. Open can of enchilada sauce. Coat casserole dish with cooking spray to make it easier to remove enchiladas once they’re done.

Set out a couple of tortillas on the counter, add a heaping spoonful of the meat mixture to one end. Roll up, leaving the ends open. Set in pan. Repeat until you run out of tortillas. There may be meat mixture left, but not much. Occasionally, you might find that you have to squish the enchiladas together. Don’t worry, this makes them taste so much better.

Cover enchiladas with sauce. Use the back of a spoon to be sure every inch of the enchiladas is covered with sauce. Heavily spread cheese over the enchiladas. Bake in 350° oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese melts completely. Serve with favorite toppings.

Starlight's Curse - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Ragged sobs ripped from her throat as she stood beneath the tree.  She raised a shaky hand toward the body, her fingers reaching for a white rectangle pinned to a bright red turtleneck sweater... This was her baby... She dropped to her knees and curled forward.  Her arms wrapped protectively around her body, and she released great, heaving sobs of tremendous loss.  Her daughter hung from the branch of an elm tree.  

Forty years earlier... Far off in the woods, he caught sight of a dozen men wearing white robes and peaked hats slipping between the trees.  It was hard to make out.  Their clothes blended in well with the snow on the ground....  "There Daddy" his voice wavered, cracking into an embarrassing treble.  "The tree.  Look at the tree.  Daddy's head turned kind of slow like.  His mouth dropped open when he spotted the three figures dangling off ropes on that ancient elm... He took off running, his aunt lived off the other side of the road, in a shanty cabin that was the polar opposite of Starlight Mansion.

Many times I've read a book that I said was a page turner, and they were, but Starlight's Curse was a book that I wanted to read through the night and even the next day if need be without putting it down.  A lot of that is because I grew up during the time, 40 years earlier, when the Klan was active.  Part of it was because I also grew up just outside Atlanta and spent many weekends in the North Georgia mountains.  But the biggest part was that the story was so real.  It wasn't fast moving but moved more along the time lines that it would actually take for the events and thoughts to happen in real life.  This book took me in from the first page and held me there until the end.

Order your copy of Starlight's Curse here.

Severed Threads - Kaylin McFarren, Author

2:03 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves

Tuna Cakes
(A Kaylin Special)

2 cans (5 oz. each) chunk light tuna in water, drained, flaked
1 pkg. (6 oz.) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 cup Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese 
3/4 cup water
1 carrot, shredded
1/3 cup KRAFT Real Mayo Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip Dressing
2 Tbsp. Sweet Pickle Relish
1 egg, beaten

Garnish: 1 sliced lemon

Combine ingredients. Refrigerate 10 min.; stir. Heat large nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium heat. Use ice cream scoop to add 1/3-cup portions of tuna mixture, in batches, to skillet. Flatten into patties with back of spatula. Cook 6 min. or until golden brown on both sides, carefully turning patties after 3 min. Drain and cool patties on serving dish covered with paper towel, then squeeze with lemon and enjoy!

Severed Threads - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

"Somewhere on board the ship is the gift Mai Le intended for her lover. According to ancient scrolls handed down by my grandfather, it was hidden in a handcrafted box disguised as a Chinese betrothal chest. After a thorough examination of the wood fibers and inscribed markings, there is no doubt in my mind. The lid your father found belongs to this box. The heart of the dragon must be hidden in the wreckage or buried somewhere close by. Prophecy foretells of a lion rescuing the dragon's heart. This is your destiny, Rachel. Your chance to turn your father's dream into reality."

Dr. Lao Ying schedules a meeting with Rachel Lyons in the hope of recruiting funds for lost treasure from the Wanli II ship. This is the mission her father Sam and his partner Chase Cohen had embarked on years earlier.  After examining the items found so far, Dr. Ying is sure the Wanli’s burial place has been found.  But the lack of funding could bring this excavation to a stop, and this is where Dr. Ying hopes to solve the problem. With Rachel's influence at the foundation she works for, the real search can begin. However, Chase Cohen's involvement creates a roadblock in this enterprising venture.

Rachel and Chase were a couple who shared a deep passion for the sea. Then, when Rachel needed Chase the most, he ran off and she hasn't seen him for four long years...that is, not until her meeting with Dr. Ying. She wants nothing to do with him or anything he might be involved in. Her brother Devon warned her about Chase before he disappeared, and now she realizes she should have listened. But as it turns out, Devon isn’t the smartest person in her life. He’s neck deep in trouble with money laundering and may end up in the ocean as shark bait. Chase’s treasure-hunting skills and the Heart of the Dragon he’s after are the only means to saving Rachel's brother from some really bad men.

This book is full of twists and turns. I would find a character that I started liking only to discover my first impression was wrong. Then I would come across one I didn't trust and soon realize I would want them on my side, especially if I were put into some of the situations in which Rachel, Chase and Devon find themselves. Severed Threads is chuck full of murder, drugs, bad guys, and a whole lot of suspense all the way to the end. For anyone who enjoys undersea mysteries, thrillers and adventures, this is the book to read!

Midnight Owl Book 1 - Viv Drewa, Author

1:52 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves

Easy Grilled Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
  With Pineapple Sriracha Crema
(One of Joe's Favorite Dishes)

Serves: 4-6
1 10 oz. package Campbell's Teriyaki Chicken Grill Sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ripe pineapple,trimmed and sliced
2 large zucchini
2 large red bell peppers, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more to brush grill
salt and pepper
1 Recipe Coconut Ginger Rice and Beans

Teriyaki Chicken: Brush grill where you will be cooking chicken and pineapple with some olive oil. Preheat grill to medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill for 6-7 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through.
Remove chicken from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Add to a large bowl and toss with warmed teriyaki sauce.

Vegetables and Pineapple: Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and some freshly cracked salt and pepper to a large freezer bag with the bell peppers and zucchini. Toss to coat.
Working in batches, grill vegetables and pineapple at medium high heat until tender and lightly charred all over, about 6-8 minutes for the pineapple, or until caramelized, 8 minutes for the zucchini and 6 minutes for the red bell peppers, flipping everything once during cooking. Once cool enough to handle, slice red bell peppers into strips.

Pineapple Sriracha Crema

3/4 cup sour cream, divided
1/4 cup mayonnaise, divided
3 tablespoons pineapple marmalade
2-4 teaspoons Sriracha, more or less to taste
1 tablespoon lime jice
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped

Add 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoon mayonnaise, the pineapple marmalade, Sriracha, lime juice and cilantro to your blender and chop then puree until smooth, scraping sides down as needed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup sour cream and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.* Taste and stir in more Sriracha and lime juice to taste if desired.

Assemble: Divide rice between bowls and top with chicken, red bell peppers, zucchini and pineapple. Drizzle with Sriracha Pineapple Crema.
*I stir in more sour cream and mayonnaise after blending to thicken the crema. I find if I add it all to the blender it is too runny.
**Cooking time will vary depending on how much you can cook on your grill at a time.

Midnight Owl (A Joe Leverette Mystery Book 1) - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir Laugh Repeat: Think With Your Taste Buds: A Book and A Dish

"Who's there?" she called out in a trembling voice that didn't sound like her own.  The light behind the door went out and the squeaking door opened slowly.  A man stood there and looked at her.  He was wearing a total-body rain suit, surgical cap and mask.  Only his eyes were visible.  "Hello, Heather," he said in a calm voice.  "What do you want?  Why are you doing this?  Who are you?" she blurted out.  "Now, now.  I'm here to take you on an adventure.  One that will allow you to pay for all the misery you've caused to a lot of people," he said with his calm voice.  "I'm going to make sure you'll never hurt anyone again."  He turned and reached for a pile of what looked like fabric straps from the table.  They were four strips.  He began applying one of them to each of her limbs, tightly, like a tourniquet, a few inches below her torso.

Later... "I was walking my dog and he got upset.  He pulled me over there,"  Amy said, and with a shaky finger, pointed to the black mass at the shore.  "When I got to it, I saw it was a woman's leg."

Amy was just one of the unfortunate who had her day destroyed with the finding of a body part.  Throughout the day others would discover the remains of what would turn out to be a woman which had been mutilated with her body parts being placed in garbage bags and dropped off at various places.  All of the finders were strangers to each other yet they all had one thing in common... a dream.

If you like suspense, this book will throw it out to you with page 1.  I don't believe I've ever read a book that began as deadly as this one did.  I don't believe I've ever read a book that caught me up in the story with the 1st page.  This book did both.  It kept me in suspense to the very end.  I had no idea who the killer, or should I say mutilator, was.  And I'll not reveal any information that might give you a clue.  I will tell you that you are in for a total surprise at the end.  Now I can't wait to read book #2 in this series to see what will happen next and how Author Viv Drewa will entice me into waiting on the edge of my seat for book #3.

Vital Temptations: A Heart's Betrayal - K. L. Lewis, Author

12:00 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves

K. L.'s Simple Lemon Pie
(Great for any holiday or occasion. I usually make this on Thanksgiving Day)

Freshly squeezed lemon juice-1/2 cup, or 1/4 if you want it less lemony
2 Egg yolks (Can use full eggs, but need to beat well to reduce clumping)
1 Can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk (Sweetened)
Pie shell of liking (I prefer the 'Ready Crust' graham cracker, reduced fat)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix juice, yolks and milk together and pour into your pie shell.  Bake 10-15 minutes or refrigerate overnight. 

*Can add meringue to top it off, but I'm not crazy about meringue

Vital Temptations - Review by Martha A Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

The two chatted for several minutes as Bethany continued studying him.  Something about him reminded her of her dad, who always told her to look for a sense of humor in a man.  His beautiful complexion and perfect lips and teeth were an added bonus; she loved a man who took pride in his oral hygiene and nails.  His pearly white smile sparkled at her when he spoke.  Bethany sensed that he was much younger than the guys she usually dated and she was unimpressed that he came to the conference unprepared; nonetheless she accepted his offer for lunch since she hated eating alone.

Dr. Bethany McNeal has just met the love of her life - Dr. Brent Anderson.  Both are attending a conference at the Seattle Children's hospital.  The unprepared Dr. Anderson takes the only available seat left which is next to Bethany.

Just a couple years earlier Bethany had found herself in a relationship with a man she really loved and trusted.  Turned out trust was the last thing he should have been given.  They parted ways with her being extremely cautious when it came to men.  Brent finally broke through the wall she had built and she had fallen so in love with him that she knew there would be no other.   But... Brent came with secrets, both past and present.  Secrets that should end any feelings she has for him.  When she finally learns what he has been hiding from her the pain is unbearable but nothing can kill her love.

As I read Vital Temptations I found myself rooting for Bethany.  Hoping she would open her eyes and see what was going on around her.  Hoping she would listen to her best friends Danielle and Caleb.  Listen to them when they tell her there are other women.  Listen when Danielle introduces her to Charles who falls heavily for her.  This love story will keep you in suspense all the way to the end, wondering what is going to happen to Bethany.  I knew how I wanted it to end.  I'll not tell you what I hoped for but will tell you that it didn't end the way I wanted it to which is good because I think it ended just the way it should.  I had a hard time putting this book down and if you're a fan of a good 'what is she going to do' you'll be glad you picked this one up.

The Brazen Shark - David Lee Summers, Author

9:02 AM Posted by Martha A Cheves

Japanese-Style Beef and Sweet Potato Stew(A requested dish for Legion's friends Ramon & Fatemeh)
Makes 4 Servings

2 lbs boneless chuck cut in 1-inch chunks
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup honey
10 slices of ginger (nickel sized)
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ lbs sweet potatoes in 1-inch chunks
6 oz udon noodles (or angel-hair pasta)

Brown meat in the cooking pot over medium-high heat.

Add vegetable stock to the pan and continue cooking over high heat to deglaze and integrate juices from the meat with the stock.  Add soy sauce, honey, ginger, and a couple of grindings of pepper.

Once liquid reaches a boil, cover and turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.

While meat is cooking, cook noodles/pasta according to package directions then drain and set aside.

When meat is nearly tender, stir in sweet potatoes and cook until tender, but not mushy—about 20 minutes.  Add salt if needed, then stir in lemon juice.

Serve by placing pasta to taste in the bottom of the bowl and covering with meat, vegetables and stock.

The Brazen Shark - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir Laugh Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

The men took their stations with samurai keeping careful watch. Legion continued to calculate reasons for the airship's capture. A mission to discredit the emperor's power and gain popular support seemed a high probability.  Usurping the throne directly also ranked high.  Either possibility could precipitate further warfare and involve either the United States or Russia.... Legion, you have abandoned me.  Although Mendeleev remained silent, Legion had no problem hearing his thoughts.  Legion considered and after a moment, decided to speak.  "We have not abandoned you.  We have been watching and calculating possibilities."

"Why didn't you stop the samurai from taking the airship? Certainly you can see what a disaster this would be for our goal of world unification."

"We could not stop the samurai without taking over their minds and bending them to our will."

Legion remembered assorted names for himself.  Most were simple combinations of letters and numbers which identified the different machines he once occupied, but some held ancient meanings. Perhaps one had even been his name as a corporeal life form.  He was nothing but a swarm of microscopic machines that reproduced asexually.  Over the millennia he had watched solar systems form as well as thousands of species destroyed in a microsecond.  His main goal in being though was the unification of earth and its people.  This goal has taken him into the minds of a small circle of humans that he has helped by expanding their ability to create items that he feels is needed for them to succeed.  Two of these items became the first air ships and fast moving water ships.

Legion's interference in the creation of these vehicles has taken a turn for the worse.  A group of samurai have captured one of the air ships owned by the Russians.  For some time their intended use for this ship is unknown even to Legion.  When their agenda is made clear, it's up to the humans he contacts to save the world from a major war that will put an end to the unification they all desire.  But can he do this without interfering into the minds of others?

The Brazen Shark was a book that I will say I wouldn't normally have chosen... but... once I started reading I had to continue to see exactly where it would take me.  It took me to a world that is called earth but with an entirely different history.  One that actually had me wondering if there really is a 'Legion' out there that is powering the minds of those who create what most of us can't even imagine.  Could Einstein have been one that was contacted by a being like Legion?  After reading this book it just might be possible.

Murder by Design - Betty Tima Gordon, Author

1:16 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves

Jalapeno Potato Soup(A Betty Tima Gordon Specialty)

1 medium onion (chopped)
1/4 cup margarine
5 lbs. sweet potatoes, cubed
8 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno & juice
Pinch of baking soda (prevents curdling)
4 cups evaporated milk
salt & pepper to taste
Garnish with sour cream & chopped green onion.

Saute onions in margarine.  Add potatoes, chicken broth and cumin.  Cook until tender (20-30 minutes).  Add jalapenos, soda and milk.  Coarsely mash potatoes with potato masher.  Salt & pepper to taste.  Simmer 15 minutes stirring frequently.

(This Jalapeno Potato Soup was given to me by a dear friend more than thirty years ago. At the time, my friend said it was her father's favorite. It remains one of my family's favorite)

Murder by Design - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of:  Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

...drifted into sleep, loud music, cigarette smoke, pink and blue lights, dancers, and David's intense eyes all swirled around her, catching her in their coils before moving farther and farther away... Harshness of grating metal ripped through the silence invading her consciousness.  She bolted upright, "Whaaa...who?  Who's there?"  Terrified, she ran into the kitchen and grabbed one of the knives from the drawer.  As she moved toward the edge of the wall where she could see, the knob turned.  Her hand tightened around the base of the knife as the door opened.  She stared in disbelief at the shadowy figure filling the doorway.

Meet the characters:
Paul Barlow - Homicide Division - Houston Texas - Paul is in the middle of finding a rapist who takes the victim's shoes as a reminder of his deed.
David Farrell - Vietnam Vet - law student - engaged - having an affair
Karen Matthews - law student - in her 40's - in love with David Farrell
Sharon Berg - an impressionable young woman infatuated with David Farrell - wears a Vietnam coin, a keepsake form her deceased brother, around her neck which grabs Farrell's attention
Vicki Sanders - Karen's roommate - hates David Farrell
Kim Lowry - David Farrell's fiance - works for Delta - gone a lot

Now that you've met most of the characters I'll go ahead and tell you that one of them will be raped and one will die.

When I started reading Murder by Design I wasn't hooked in the beginning but I had a feeling it would eventually grab me.  Well it did and it didn't take long.  I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with Detective Barlow as he tracked down who he believed to be the rapist as well as the murderer.  His main suspect was taken all the way into trial and I was still not sure.  Then the big bomb hit and I will tell you that I was and wasn't surprised.  I suspected the person but not the how.  This is a really enjoyable book.

All Saints: Murder on the Mersey - Brian L. Porter, Author

12:48 PM Posted by Martha A Cheves

Filet Mignon with Rich Balsamic Glaze
(A favorite dish of Detective Inspector Andy Ross)

2 (4 oz. each) filet mignon steaks
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
salt to taste
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dry red wine

Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over both sides of each steak and sprinkle with salt to taste.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place steaks in hot pan, cook for 1 minute on each side, or until browned.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add balsamic vinegar and red wine.  Cover and cook for 4 minutes on each side, basting with sauce when you turn the meat over. Remove steaks to two warmed plates, spoon one tablespoon of glaze over each, and serve immediately.

All Saints:  Murder on the Mersey - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

Detective Inspector Andy Ross pulled the unmarked police Mondeo to a halt, its right side wheels pulled up on the pavement outside St. Matthew's Church in Norris Green in an effort to avoid restricting the traffic flow along Brewer Street...  There were already two police patrol cars parked on the street, together with another pool car identical to his own which he knew would have brought his assistant, Sergeant Clarissa, (Izzie) Drake and Detective Constable Derek McLennan to the scene...  As he neared the scene, Ross could see Dr. Nugent on his knees, his assistant, Francis Lees beside him, both men obviously intent on carrying out their initial examination of the body...  "Oh, my God," Ross exclaimed as he drew closer to the scene...  "I told you, sir,"  his sergeant said, quietly.  "Yes, but this... this is, well, nothing short of bloody monstrous... the victim, a man in his mid to late fifties, has been almost totally eviscerated... "Who found him, Izzie?"   "The poor bloody priest"

Father Gerald Byrne, along with his sister, grew up in Speke Hill, an orphanage that was run by the Roman Catholic Church.  He developed a deep interest in theology and the Church which eventually brought him into the priesthood.   After years of traveling all over the world it also brought him full circle back to St. Luke's where he would be not only their priest but also the priest of Speke Hill.  But, shortly after his arrival the murders started.  Bodies are being placed in various cemeteries after being totally disembowel and mutilated. 

This book took me down a very winding road!  As much as I tried to determine who was carrying out the brutal murders, the harder it was for me to justify my suspicions.  And at the end... I was totally surprised.  As always, Brian L. Porter has written another book that can't be put down.  I can never get enough of his books.  He has a Stephen King/Dean Kunze/Jeffrey Deaver frame of mind when he writes putting him right up there in their class of authors.

All Saints: Murder on the Mersey