EAT & LOVE: Getting Merry (the fa-la-la edition)

I can’t help how much I love the Christmas season.

I love all the colorful lights, the traditions, watching holiday movies,  eggnog latte’s, gingerbread men and how it’s the one time of the year where you can put on a sweater with a reindeer wearing glasses and it’s totally OK — I didn’t say it was cool, it’s just … OK.

Today, we had a little fun with baking Christmas inspired muffins and then headed out to do some shopping at the Americana on Brand.  I tend to avoid shopping centers because I have no patience for crowds or looking for parking, but last year I ended up spending a lot of time here because my dad lived close by and now I’m totally smitten with coming here! Especially during the holidays, it’s a perfect way to spend a little time outside, get some shopping done and indulge in shopping mall fun. I”m a product of the 80s, I can’t help myself.

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The Americana has a list of activities for the week that can range from, “Learning how to Host a Holiday Party” to my personal favorite: Magic Snowfall every day at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. We typically come for the holiday trolley and take pictures in front of the 100 foot tall Christmas tree, before we eat something covered in frosting and sprinkles.

Today, we got to discover Sugarfina, a Los Angeles-based gourmet candy shop that truly had me feeling like I was living my own version of Cindy and the Gourmet Candy Factory with the rows and rows of sweet little boxes of caramel and toffees, Danish Mocha Beans, gummies and even a decadent marshmallow infused with champagne and topped with 24k Gold #firstworldproblems

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We had  a great time exploring here, got to sample peppermint malt balls (awesome) and some lucky person in my life was bought the best tasting Christmas gift, ever.

Enjoy the season!

 

 

 

 

Weekend Reading & Eating: Pie Girls by Lauren Clark

Pie Girls Cover copy2I recently finished reading PIE GIRLS  by Lauren Clark and I devoured it in two days much like I do when I have actual pie in the house. It was wonderful.  Sweet, but not overly sweet, rich characters and just the right amount of tartness to make it fun.  

I had the chance to chat with Lauren and I invited her to share what she’s Eating, Writing & Loving these days. She  is also sweet enough to share her wonderful blueberry pie recipe, which is a perfect accompaniment  to PIE GIRLS. 

Don’t forget the vanilla ice cream and whip cream!

Thanks to Lauren for joining us today: 

1. What are you EATING right now that you love, can’t live without or think everyone should know about?

During the writing of Pie Girls, as I was getting close to finishing the book, I planned a PIE WEEKEND, prepared my two boys, my friends, and their kids. Using all of my grandmother’s recipes, I made 9 pies in all, and taste-tested everyone! I selected 3 (Chess Pie, Chocolate Pecan, and Lemon Sponge), along with her amazing-no fail pie crust recipe to go in the Pie Girls book. I have great memories of visiting her house every holiday and on school breaks. She would always have baked some fabulous dessert for us, usually a pie or cake. I’ve always thought about incorporating her recipes in one of my novels. Pie Girls was the perfect opportunity. For Christmas a few years ago, I asked my mother to write down all of my grandmother’s recipes so that I could have them and preserve the family tradition. It was the best gift ever!

Her blueberry pie is one recipe that I didn’t include in the book, but is one that I make often, and would like to share with you today (see below). It’s easy, only takes a few ingredients, and is perfect for a warm summer day picnic or barbeque. I hope that you enjoy it! (See Below)

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2.     What are you WRITING now that you want people to know about?

I visited a place in Greensboro, Alabama called the Pie Lab, a restaurant that has been written up in Southern Living, Bon Appetit, and many newspapers around the Southeast. The pie shop is a special place—small town atmosphere—great food, and personal attention, but the thing that makes it really unique is that it is a place where high school dropouts or people in need of skills and training can go and learn valuable skills—how to bake, run a register, make change, and give good customer service.

I kind fell in love with the idea of such a place existing in Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely waterfront community near where I live. I decided to create a shop named Pie Girls there, and thus, Searcy’s story was born.Generally, while writing a novel, I do best when writing every morning (that’s usually 5:30 am – 7:30 am, before the kids need to be off at school and I have to get to work. I try to end my writing sessions having finished a chapter, which means that the next day, I have a fresh slate, of sorts. I’m also the type to just plow through from start to finish with my novel, going back to editing after (even if I think chapter 13 is the most awful garbage I’ve ever written).

 

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3.      What are you LOVING right now?

Right now, I am loving a family weekend in Atlanta, Ga., which is about 6 hours from my house in Mobile, Ala. The boys have been talking about attending Dragon Con for months, and I decided that since next year, it’s in San Diego, there’s no time like the present. We spent Friday at the Georgia Aquarium, which was an amazing experience. It really makes you feel connected to the ocean and all of the creatures that live in our world. I’m definitely a water and beach person, so watching otters play, seahorses dance, and dolphins swim was pretty close to heaven!

Dragon Con should be pretty crazy. Thousands of people, dressed up in costumes, all gathered in 4 hotels to see stars from television shows, mini-series, movies, and cartoons.  I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of Patrick Stuart (X-Men), Mary McDonald (Battlestar Galactica), and Ralph Macchio (the Karate Kid).  If we all had time to find costumes and dress up, Patrick would definitely go as “Arrow” from the show on TV, John David would pick “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and I’d probably go with something girly and pink, like Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time!

Delicious & Easy Blueberry Pie

1 qt fresh blueberries

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp tapioca

1 tbsp butter

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 (baked) Best Ever pie crust from Pie Girls or one Deep Dish 9” pie shell

Mix half of the blueberries, flour, tapioca, butter, salt, lemon juice, and both sugars in a saucepan. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add  remaining half of blueberries. Stir well. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill until set. Top with whipped cream if desired.

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BIO: Lauren Clark writes contemporary Southern novels sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets. A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends.She is the author of three award-winning novels, Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stay Tuned, and Stardust Summer, as well as a short story, A Very Dixie Christmas, published in the Merry & Bright holiday collection. Lauren is a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Mobile Writers Guild. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com.

VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION: HOT CHOCOLATE SOUP

EDITORS NOTE: Happy Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air and chocolate is on the mind today, so what better way to celebrate than with a Hot Chocolate soup from mystery culinary writer, Sharon Moore.  Her new release MISSION IMPASTABLE  is a tasty whodunnit with plenty of inspired recipes to go along with the fun. Thanks for joining us Sharon! Check out her great blog Parsley, Sage and Rosemary for more information on Sharon.

 

HOT CHOCOLATE SOUP

This recipe is not in Mission Impastable, my just-released culinary mystery, but it will appear in Prime Rib and Punishment, the sequel out later this year. Alli, challenges her students at the cooking school to create a dessert soup that could also be a totally new ice cream flavor. They come up with some very interesting ideas! The winner in her class was Hot Chocolate Soup and Hot Chocolate Ice Cream.

 

hot chocolateWhat says love more than chocolate? To make your love scenario even steamier, serve your lover Hot Chocolate Soup on that special day. This soup is hot in more than one way.

Not only do you serve it warm, but the red pepper flakes in the soup add that surprise element you always want to keep in your relationship.

Leftover soup? No problem. Make Hot Chocolate Ice Cream and recall the night you first met this combo.

 

 

Hot Chocolate Soup (serves 4)

2 c heavy whipping cream
2 c milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
4 T sugar
4 oz grated 60-70% cacao chocolate
1 t vanilla
¼ t red pepper flakes
¼ c. toasted coconut
20-2”cubes pound cake or angel food cake

Put cake cubes under broiler. Watch closely. When browned, turn over and brown the bottom. Remove to a rack to cool.

In top of double boiler, heat whipping cream and milk. Slowly whisk in egg yolks and stir until begins to thicken. Stir in sugar.

Slowly add grated chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and red pepper flakes. Serve with five cubes of cake and a sprinkle of toasted coconut.

 

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authorsamAfter 39 years as an educator, Sharon Arthur Moore “transitioned” to the life of full-time fiction writer. She’s an intrepid cook, game-player, and miniatures lover. She writes culinary mysteries, women’s fiction, historic

al fiction, short stories, plays, and erotic romance (Under the pen name Angelica French). Sharon has lived in every region of the country except the Pacific Northwest and loved every single one of them. Her current favorite region is the desert Southwest. She is married to the most extraordinary man and claims four children, one daughter-in-law, a grandson, and dog Maudie.

FEED YOUR HEART: RECIPE WEEK

This week I’ve decided to give the kitchen table here at EAT~WRITE~LOVE over to a few authors & bakers who know a thing or two about romance  and, er… dessert. Grab a coffee and  join us everyday this week and get inspired as I combine my two loves: baking and Chick Lit.

Enjoy!

MEET HERS BAKERY

I was lucky enough last week to spend an afternoon with a handful of bloggers from MomsLA.com for my very first book club for HEARTBREAK CAKE. I was nervous (terrified) as you can imagine, but also really excited to hear from readers who wanted to chat about my book (awesome!)

I had been coordinating for a few weeks with editor Sarah Auerswald and she had briefly mentioned getting a heart-shaped cake for the event.

Cake? No problem, I thought. When it comes to cake, I know exactly who to call.

Tasha Sanchez and her business partner Melanie Johnstone are the women behind Los Angeles based Hers Bakery, an indie catering company with a focus on sweet desserts.  I gave  Tasha some details on the cake  that was inspired from one in my book and she said “I got this.”

Boy, she wasn’t kidding.

On the day of the book event, no one could stop taking pictures of the cake or saying how amazing it tasted.  Moist, sweet but not overly sweet, just the right amount of crunchy hazelnuts and an undertone of Nutella that made  you heady with happiness. Seconds were a must.

 

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  I had a quick chat with Tasha, who is a busy mom of two, and while she wouldn’t give me the secret to how she makes such a moist cake, seeing as it’s an industry hazard. She did give me a  peek into some of the steps she took to make this baking beauty.

How did you make this glorious cake? Tasha: LOL! I started with our  lovely chocolate cake recipe, baked three layers in a heart-shaped pan.  I made a chocolate and Nutella buttecream and garnished it with crushed hazelnut candies on the edge.

It was epic, thank you! Is this a popular cake for Hers Bakery?  I made it for the first time a few months ago for a wedding and it was delicious! I was hoping I could make it again soon.

So do you think chocolate and hazelnuts are good for heartbreak? Anything with chocolate is good! Add nuts and it is even better, you can’t mess with a good chocolate and hazelnut cake, it can handle anything!

Thanks to Tasha and to everyone at Hers Bakery for making this beautiful cake!  And thanks to MomsLA.com and all the amazing bloggers who came out for lunch for some book talk + cake!

RECREATE THIS CAKE: Recipe from Kitchen Daily.