Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seasons in Purdah - Anjuelle Floyd, Author

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

(I love chocolate. I am also diabetic.

This recipe is great for anyone who is watching the sugar intake and/or trying to lose weight and wants to eat more healthily, but like I, has a sweet tooth, or two.)
Anjuelle Floyd


1/2 cup chopped pitted dates 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, “natural” or Dutch-process 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules 1/2 cup boiling water 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish 2 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup sugar, divided 2 tablespoons canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 large egg 3 large egg whites, or 2 tablespoons dried egg whites, reconstituted according to package directions

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


1. To prepare cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.

2. Combine dates, cocoa and instant coffee in a small bowl. Add boiling water and stir until the cocoa has dissolved. Cover and let stand until the dates have softened and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, spread hazelnuts in a shallow baking dish and bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

4. Grind bread into fine crumbs in a food processor. Measure to make sure you have 1/2 cup. Transfer to a large bowl. (No need to wash the workbowl between steps.)

5. Place 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts in the food processor. Add flour and salt; process until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer to the bowl with the breadcrumbs.

6. Scrape the cooled date mixture into the food processor. Add 1/3 cup sugar, oil, vanilla and whole egg; process until smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the sides of the workbowl. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the breadcrumbs and nuts. Mix gently with a rubber spatula.

7. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer in a clean large mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add one-fourth of the beaten whites to the batter and whisk until blended. Fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly.

8. Bake the cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Coat the rack with cooking spray and invert the cake onto it to cool completely.

9. Meanwhile, to prepare glaze: Combine cocoa, chocolate, corn syrup and instant coffee in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar (to the chocolate mixture), beating with an electric mixer, slowly at first, then gradually increasing speed, until the glaze is smooth and thickened. (The mixture may seem lumpy at first, but it will smooth out.) Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the mixture is set, about 30 minutes.

10. To finish the cake, place it bottom-side up on a serving plate. Place several strips of wax paper under the bottom edge to protect the plate from drips. Spoon on glaze and spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake with an icing spatula or knife. Arrange the remaining 2 tablespoons hazelnuts around the top outside edge. Discard the wax paper before serving.

Seasons in Purdah – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

“James’ entry into Sahel’s life had at the very least unleashed an ability to communicate with those living on other levels of life. Through holding James’ hands, Sahel had entered James’ thought space and experienced the images punctuated with the smells and sounds of his memory. It was a powerful talent, one that, during the ensuing days, had put Sahel at ease and peace with her vulnerabilities, not simply as a person without physical sigh, rather an individual who wanted to love and to be loved. Sahel’s lack of sight had opened portals leading to a source of connection with others, a wellspring that provided a sense of purpose bathed in compassion. It also bestowed an awareness of the need for boundaries.”

Sahel Ohin Denning had a degree in psychology but as it’s been said in many ways – a doctor can’t seem to heal himself. As for Sahel, due to an accident she lost her sight but not her emotions. She found herself feeling some of the same feelings her patients had felt giving them reason to seek out her help. But how could she help others when she couldn’t even help herself. These emotions led her to do the unthinkable. She attempted suicide. Had it not been for her husband Titus’ early arrival at home she would have succeeded. Titus is a heart surgeon and blames himself for her loss of sight. Their best friend Carl is a neurosurgeon who feels surgery will allow her to regain her sight. But to his dismay, Sahel and Titus refuse the surgery. Sahel then meets James who asks one question of her … “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

Through her lack of sight Sahel finds herself being able to communicate with James’ fiancé who committed suicide after the death of her father. James is able to communicate through Sahel with his beloved letting her know how much he loves her and that he forgives her for what she has done.

But James himself is dying and wants to reunite with his beloved at the end with hopes of her helping him cross over into her world. Through Sahel’s help, this is accomplished but with much strain on Sahel’s her own health, pushing her to have the surgery she doesn’t want.

Seasons in Purdah is a beautiful story of three people who love each other with all their hearts. Sahel, Titus and Carl grew up together and were best friends but both men loved Sahel and she loved them equally, yet in different ways. After dreaming of a life during another time and place and then learning that Titus as well as Carl had the same dream at the same time, Sahel, when Sahel is attempting to answer James’ question “Do you believe in reincarnation?” seeks understand the question as well as its answer. She must clarify whether the reality of her life. Is her life an aspect of Titus and/or Carl’s dream(s) or are their lives but an aspect of her dream? Is Sahel experiencing a life she has already lived? Or is she living one of the many lives that awaits her in the future? Or is she dreaming this present life from a life based in the future?

And so, what do you, the reader, believe?

After following the three of them through the trials of life and the trials of their‘dreams’ I must give it a second thought before I can answer.

Seasons in Purdah is a very beautiful, loving, yet intriguing story that would make a great ‘Lifetime’ movie for television.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dead Man Talking - T. M. Simmons, Author

Boiled Live Crawfish
(A T.M. Simmons Speciality)
One sack live crawfish, 35-40 lbs.
A Dozen Medium Lemons, Halved
2-4 lbs. of Crawfish Boiling Spices
6 Large Onions, Peeled
5 lb. Red Potatoes
1 dozen ears frozen sweet corn
1 – 12 oz. container of squeeze butter or margarine
17 oz. container of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
3 - 4 gallons water
Outside propane fish cooker
Large cooler
It's best to use an outside propane fish cooker. If you cook crawfish in your kitchen, the spices will make you sneeze and can make it hard to breathe.  Wash crawfish off with a hose while still in the bag.   Pour crawfish into a metal tub or plastic swimming pool. Rewash.  Bring the water to boil over the propane flame.   Add spices, lemons, onions, and one half of potatoes, and corn.  Bring back to boil.  Fill fish basket with live crawfish. (Discard any dead ones, as they may have gone bad.)  Slowly lower into boiling water and cover with lid.  Bring back to boil and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour crawfish from basket into cooler.  Remove corn, also, and put in cooler. Let potatoes cook longer.  Squeeze butter/margarine on crawfish and corn, then sprinkle with creole seasoning and stir with a metal scoop.  Keep cooking until all the crawfish are all cooked, adding corn with next batch and taking first batch of potatoes out when they are done. Add rest of potatoes and cook while finishing the crawfish. Continue squeezing butter and adding seasoning.  Give everyone a disposable plastic tray and enjoy! We cover a table with an oilcloth and newspaper to dump our shells on. Twist off head and suck out spices. Remove tail meat and eat.  You can dip the crawfish tails into your favorite seafood dip, if you wish. I like melted Brummel and Brown yogurt butter.
Dead Man Talking – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
A second later Katy continued with a resigned sigh, “He says his death was a murder, but not deliberate murder. That he can’t find eternal rest until the deed is exposed.” That got to me. The ghost must have known it would. How can you have an undeliberate murder? I never could ignore a murder mystery with a death riddle attached. “Interesting,” I mused. “Are you coming then? In the morning, not next week?” I chewed my lip and contemplated. “Ask Sir Gary why he doesn’t come over here and talk. I’ll leave a light on.” “I’ve already told him that,” she ground out. “Hell, I even got out a map and showed him where you live! But noooo. He insists you come here!” A stubborn ghost. He’d probably been that way in life, because Twila and I firmly believe a person’s living personality follows into death. One crotchety old man –
Alice was contacted by her cousin Katy to help her remove her resident ghost who calls himself ‘Sir Gary.’ Apparently he had died due to drowning but wasn’t quite sure that it wasn’t without help. He just couldn’t remember how nor who had murdered him and until he could resume that memory he simply couldn’t cross through the light into the other side. Sir Gary has taken to acting up around Katy demanding that she have Alice come to solve his mystery and help him end his half life existence. In his eyes, Alice is a paranormal writer and solves murders all day long through her writing making her perfect for the job. Alice, on the other hand, has a deadline to meet for her latest book and just can’t get away for a few days. That all changes when Katy and Sir Gary find a headless body floating in Katy’s pool giving her home yet another ghost to deal with. And this one is mad! He can’t find his head so he can’t see nor communicate leaving him nothing else to do but rant and rave until it’s found. Katy now has Alice’s attention and she is on her way, as are her aunt Twila, her ex-husband Jack and eventually her neighbor ‘Granny.’
I’ve now read all of T. M. Simmons’ Dead Man books – Dead Man Haunt, Dead Man Hand, and now Dead Man Talking. Each is equally as good as the other and each is filled with ghosts, murder, suspense and lots of laughter. When I read the part about the traffic jam and its cause I busted out laughing out loud. When Jack, who was a non-believer became a believer I laughed. When Jack and Alice go to a biker bar undercover, I laughed. This book, as well as all of the Dead Man books are filled with so much humor that it becomes a ‘fun filled suspense.’ And for the suspense, I never did guess who killed the man in the pool until I read it near the end.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shadows of Doubt - Mell Corcoran, Author

Grilled Cheese
(One of Mell's Favorites)
Who doesn't love a good grilled cheese sandwich?  Being the food addict that I am, I always love to find a new twist for an old favorite but how can anyone possibly improve on a grilled cheese sandwich?  Granted, mine are more fried than grilled, but still!
One day I was surfing channels while trying to work my way through a particularly convoluted scene I was writing and came across a little piece on Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy. I think it was actually one of Giada De Laurentiis' show but  this segment was on the infamous bar where Hemingway was practically a fixture for a time.  He made numerous references to Harry's in his work "Over the River and into the Trees".   Naturally, when the owner began showing Giada how to make Harry's Bar pierini, their pan seared cheese sandwich, I scrambled for pen and paper and headed to the grocery store that afternoon to give it a whirl.  Needless to say this is an ultimate comfort food of mine.  If I may be so bold as to say that it is much like my book, a simple concept that everyone can't help enjoying, but this one is given a surprising and intense complexity that you can't help but fall in love with.
The original recipe calls for the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper as well as a half a pound of smoked, boiled ham but I found I love this sandwich without them.  Try it both ways and you pick your favorite version. 
1/2 pound Gruyere or Swiss cheese, coarsely grated, at room temperature.
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
salt to taste
Cream if needed to thin the mixture
10 slices good, dense white bread, crusts removed.
Olive oil for frying
Combine cheese, egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in a food processor until smooth.  If the mixture is too thick to spread smoothly, add a touch of cream to get the right consistency.  Add olive oil to a heavy frying pan until it is very hot.  While the oil is heating up, spread the cheese mixture onto the slices of bread, slap them together and place a few in the hot oil to start the frying!  Don't over crowd the pan, work in batches.  Turn sandwiches once, when they are golden brown and crisp.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches, adding more oil as necessary.  Cut sandwiches in half, serve hot in paper napkins for that Harry's authentic touch.  As they say in Venice, buon appetito!
Shadows of Doubt – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish

He circled her slowly, enjoying the cool feel of plastic as it crinkled under his bare feet. The poor girl was exhausted, he could tell by hr soft low whimpers that came fewer and further between now. She had struggled so hard the first several hours after her arrival, it was a wonder she was awake at all. As if by some subconscious need to comfort her, he reached down and twirled one of her long, glossy ginger curls around his finger. She stiffened instantly at his touch and tried to hold her breath, the panic and fear ushering in a second wind. A smile spread wide across his tight, think lips. Who was he kidding, he didn’t have a comforting bone in his body. He existed solely for moments such as these, where the foreplay of pain was danced out like a carefully choreographed tango. Ah, how he loved to tango. He stopped in front of her and closed his eyes, swaying his hips to the music that began to play in his head, lost for a moment. The silk robe danced across his skin like a soft caress as he moved, prompting him to hum his tune aloud. The robe he donned this time was a deep jade color, in honor of his guest’s stage name. He wore it open and loose, unabashedly. Despite a few minor inconveniences, it had all worked out rather delightfully, after all.
Tallulah Louella Donovan, known simply as ‘Lou’ is a police homicide detective. She and her partner Vinny took what started out as a normal call where someone had reported finding the body of a young woman. The body was found on the railroad tracks and both legs had been severed. But there also appeared to be a cut on the victim’s leg that didn’t come from a train running over her. Plus, there was no blood in the area nor in the body. This lead them to believe that she had been killed somewhere else and placed on the tracks. And to make it worse, this wasn’t the 1st body to be found with cuts on the body and no blood found at the scene. But what became the true mystery was that each case was taken away from Lou and Vinny and turned over to the LAPD leaving them to do their own investigation on the side.
Maximiliam Augustus Julian, known as Max, left his home and business in Washington, DC and traveled to Los Angeles to straighten out the problems of corruption that apparently were taking over his territory out west. Part of that corruption lead him to discovering that it was one of his own people that was cutting and killing young girls in LA. In fact, it was the same person that he had been tracking for some time for committing the same crime in other locations. One way or the other, he vowed to get him this time. But when he meets Lou, some goes off inside and she becomes more important than anyone else.

Shadows of Doubt kept me guessing until about half way through the book as to who Max really was. There were times that I thought I knew but wasn’t 100% sure. The suspense of learning just who he and his team represented, the chase of the killer, the connections between families and the devotion of love made this book a real page turner. I hope that Author Mell Corcoran will award us with a continuation, especially since the ending left plenty of room for just about anything to happen. This was an enjoyable book to read.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Slightly Cracked - Susan Whitfield, Author

Mountain Dew Cake
(A Susan Special)

1 box lemon cake mix
1 3.4 oz. box lemon instant pudding mix
1 12 oz. can Mountain Dew (born in North Carolina!)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Combine all ingredients. Beat with mixture until smooth batter. Pour into pan and bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool.
Slightly Cracked – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
After eighteen holes of golf with his pals, Clayton ran into the kitchen from the mud room with a white face, his underwear dropped to his knees. Mackie Sue flung her spoon into the sink.
“Clayton, what on earth are you doing with your underwear down? I’m busy here, and I’m in no mood for sex right now.”
“Tick on my testicle! It’s seizing up. Get it off!” Mackie Sue sprang into action, getting the tweezers and heating the tips to remove the entire tick—head and all—on the first attempt.
“Just where have you been to get ticks, Clayton?”
“I stayed in the woods on every hole. I played like I’d never picked up a club before in my life.”
“Hold still while I finish up here.” She coated the injured gonad with Vaseline, just in case she’d missed something, and to soothe the traumatized area. Then Clayton tottered off to the sofa while she got back to her cooking, soon hearing a snore from an apparently relaxed if injured husband.
Ladies, if that isn’t enough to make you laugh and want to read Slightly Cracked I don’t know what will. And yes, I see this as a ladies book even though you guys would probably enjoy it too if you would just allow yourself to read it.
Clayton is Mackie Sue’s husband of many years. She is a high school principal and he is an accountant. Daisy is Mackie Sue’s best friend and has been almost since birth. They know each other like the back of their hands and a bonded friendship that nothing nor no one will tear apart. Daisy is married to Stanley who is a mortician with a deep dark secret that even Daisy doesn’t know. Actually he didn’t know himself that he had a secret until recently. And when it does come to light, it will have a tremendous affect on his and Daisy’s marriage.
This book is full of humor. We have two overweight friends who give it their all to lose weight, while eating anything that isn’t on the healthy food list. Both are going through menopause and both feel they have husband problems. And then there are the ‘gaggles’ of geese that Daisy has helped create over the years through feeding and protecting. I’ve read every book written by Author Susan Whitfield and there hasn’t been a one that I haven’t enjoyed but Slightly Cracked has brought out a side of this author that I didn’t know existed. I can’t remember reading another book that has made me laugh as much as Slightly Cracked. Yes, as I said before, it’s basically a female book but it’s also an adult book. It does get a little risqué but with so much humor that you can’t help but love it. Got you guys interested now? I think you would enjoy it too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bertha and Tillie Sisters Forever - Fran Lewis, Author

Chicken Kabobs with Grilled Onions

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Pinch pepper
Pinch salt
1 pound chicken tenders, cut in half
1 bunch green onions
10 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Spray a grill rack with nonstick, nonflammable cooking spray. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

In a large re-sealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice, teriyaki sauce, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and salt. Add the chicken. Seal the bag and chill for 1 hour.

Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade. Thread the chicken onto the skewers. Arrange the skewers on the grill, and grill until the chicken is done, about 3 minutes on each side. Grill the green onions until browned, about 1 minute on each side. Arrange the green onions on a serving platter. Top with the chicken. Serve immediately.

Bertha and Tillie Sisters Forever – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
My mean and horrible cousin said, “Bertha is the one that started the spitball fight in the bathroom. She was throwing them at everyone, and even hit the guards in the face when they tried to stop them. She bumped into one of the guards and knocked him out with her wide butt when she tried to run away. The coach was knocked out when she threw the ball and broke the window, causing it to fall on the volleyball coach. She deserves whatever she gets. Bertha thinks she is so smart. All she is and will always be is fat, ugly, and oversized.”
Can you imagine being a young person and have someone talk about you in this manner? And with you standing there too? It has to hurt. Bertha is overweight but what she lacks on the outside she more than makes up for on the inside. She isn’t athletic, she can’t even throw a bowling ball without it landing in the wrong lane. But she is still a good person to know, to be around and one of the best friends you’ll ever have, if you just let her.
In Bertha and Tillie Sisters Forever, Bertha tries to find herself. She tries to find just where she fits in her world of peers. While doing this, she doesn’t always make the right choices. One of her tries came when she decided to join a gang that harassed little kids on the playground. She tried it but it just wasn’t in her to be mean. Lesson learned and her next step is taken. Instead of joining a ‘gang’ she decided to create her own. But instead of being mean, Bertha’s gang became a team of investigators who are instrumental in catching the guilty people who broke into the music room and destroyed the instruments, gaining her respect from the teachers and police as well as a few of her classmates.
With ‘Adolescent Bullying’ being brought to light lately, Sisters Forever is the perfect book for young people to read. It helps them in understanding that just because you’re fat, you don’t wear designer clothes, your house isn’t a castle or your parents don’t drive the best car, you don’t have to accept bullying from anyone. You do need to stand up for yourself and if you can’t talk to an adult you trust and allow them to help you find the solutions to stop the bullying.

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